State’s Largest Conservation Officer Recruit Class Begins Training
If they all succeed, the state Department of Land and Natural Resources Division of Conservation and Resources Enforcement will have an additional 42 officers come next year to beef up its ranks, including some on the Big Island.
The 2022 conservation officer recruit class, which includes 37 men and five women, began training Monday, Aug. 8. The class is comprised of recruits for the division’s branches on the Big Island, O‘ahu, Maui and Kaua‘i. They will have nine months of classroom instruction followed by two months in the field under the supervision of a training officer.
“This is the largest academy we’ve ever staged,” Division of Conservation and Resources Enforcement Chief Jason Redulla said in a press release. “This is our third academy, and the second for recruits who have no previous law enforcement training or background. It comes at a critical time for us, as the pressures and impacts on Hawai‘i’s natural and cultural resources increase all the time. These folks will help our existing officers educate people using state lands and ocean waters.”
The addition of new officers received support from Gov. David Ige and the state Legislature. The division is partnering with the state attorney general’s office, Department of Accounting and General Services and Honolulu Community College to conduct the training.
Lt. Carlton Helm leads the academy training program and describes the adaptive and flexible attitude recruits will need to adopt to succeed and become sworn officers.
“The pandemic really highlighted the need for resilience and being adaptive and fluid to the working and occupational environment we work in,” Helm said in the press release. “For example, a Hawai‘i Island (Division of Conservation and Resources Enforcement) officer may have to respond to the hunting areas on Maunakea one morning, and then find themselves responding to the rain forests of Puna or Volcano in the afternoon. Teaching these recruits about being adaptive and fluid is an important component of their training. Their bodies, their minds and their spirit will need to be adaptive.”
A mission to provide around-the-clock protection for a monk seal mother and her pup on O‘ahu’s Kaimana Beach, provides a real-time example of the need for additional conservation officers throughout the state.
“The addition of new officers will be critical to not only support regular patrol needs but will help (the Division of Conservation and Resources Enforcement) ensure we have adequate coverage for large, time-consuming missions, as well as to beef up our ranks for special duty on other islands when needed,” Helm said in the press release.
He added that it’s taken years of work with the governor’s office, the Legislature, other state departments and Department of Land and Natural Resources leadership to open and fund the largest recruit class in the division’s history.
“Once these 42 officers take to the field, people will notice a much great presence from (the Division of Conservation and Resources Enforcement) and that will help us fulfill our mission more fully,” Helm said in the press release.