The Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW) has been recognized by the Police Association for College Education (PACE) for its efforts to encourage a minimum education level of a four year college degree for its fish and wildlife enforcement officers.
The agency was awarded a departmental commendation, "in recognition of advocacy, achievement, and example in furtherance of police professionalism by requiring through policy or practice a baccalaureate degree for entry officers as recommended by national commissions and federal courts," said Louis Mayo, PACE executive director.
PACE is a non-profit organization dedicated to improving policing by achieving a nationwide minimum educational level of a four year college degree for officers. WDFW is one of 40 law enforcement agencies nationwide recognized by PACE for having a four year college degree requirement.
"This award reflects our ongoing effort to continually improve the educational level and professionalism of the enforcement program," said Enforcement Chief Bruce Bjork.
About 90 of WDFW's 156-plus commissioned staff have four year degrees. The agency requires all new hires to have a four year degree in either natural science or criminal justice. WDFW enforcement has a commissioned staff of 156 personnel who average more than 300,000 public contacts annually.
"I am proud of our enforcement staff's accomplishments, both in the classroom and in the field," said WDFW Director Jeff Koenings. "Officers who have been through the four year college experience have had their analytical abilities sharpened, and their ‘people' skills honed. A well-educated enforcement staff is good for this agency, and good for the citizens of this state."
The award comes as the agency seeks legislative approval to change its law enforcement classification from limited to general authority, which would be equal to the authority granted police officers and deputy sheriffs. The change would allow Fish and Wildlife officers to enforce offenses such as illegally possessed firearms on school premises; serious traffic offenses; criminal trespass involving hunters, harvesters and landowner conflicts; theft of forest products on private land, and vandalism.