The 20th class of candidates in the Department of Natural Resources’ Conservation Officer Academy began training in May at Camp Ripley.
This year’s class of 14 includes recruits with a wide variety of backgrounds and experiences. Some have previous law enforcement backgrounds, while others decided to make a career change and study to become a conservation officer. The class continues the DNR Enforcement Division’s efforts to create a conservation officer staff that reflects the diversity of the state of Minnesota.
“Each of these candidates possesses the honesty, integrity and good judgment that are absolutely essential to being a conservation officer,” said Rodmen Smith, director of the DNR Enforcement Division. “I have no doubt they will continue the division’s proud, 133-year tradition of protecting Minnesota’s people and natural resources.”
The 20th Conservation Officer Academy kicked off May 4 and continues through Aug. 18. During that time, candidates will learn all about being conservation officers, from fish and wildlife laws to boat and water regulations, and rules of evidence to fish and wildlife investigations. In addition, they’ll learn about the vital role conservation officers occupy in their communities and how their work plays a part in developing the next generation of anglers, conservationists and hunters. After the academy ends, the candidates will spend several months in the field, training with experienced officers. They will be assigned to their own stations at the end of the year.
There are 155 conservation officer field stations in Minnesota. When the recruits are done with the academy and field training, the new officers will fill some of the 21 vacant stations.
In addition to the candidates, there’s a new conservation officer running the day-to-day operations of the academy. The Enforcement Division recently promoted veteran CO Mike Lee to that post. He is now the training coordinator supervisor at Camp Ripley, after having been a regional training officer.
“Lt. Lee is well versed in all aspects of training and being a conservation officer,” Smith said. “He’s driven not just to see the candidates succeed, but to ensure they’re as well prepared as they can be before they head into the field.”