OLYMPIA – Washington Fish and Wildlife Director Jeff Koenings announced today that six new field officers have been hired to help enforce the state's fish and wildlife laws.
In addition, the department has hired a new captain to oversee the Statewide Investigations Unit (SIU), information technology and problem wildlife initiatives.
Funding for the officer positions was authorized by the 1999 Legislature to help replace those lost in last year's layoffs, said WDFW Enforcement Chief Bruce Bjork. "The Legislature recognized that we cannot meet the growing pressures on this program-- from responding to cougar complaints to enforcing the Endangered Species Act – without an increase in the number officers in the field," Bjork said. "I'm very pleased that we were able to attract people of this caliber and with so much prior experience in law enforcement."
Bjork noted that five of the six regular new officers will be assigned to WDFW Region 6, which includes the Pacific coast, the Olympic Peninsula and south Puget Sound. The other officer will work out of Concrete in Skagit County.
"Our first priority was to fill positions where the need for additional officers was the greatest," Bjork said. "A primary focus for these officer positions will be to address ESA-related enforcement issues."
Last year, an increased presence of WDFW officers on coastal waters appeared to increase fishers' awareness and compliance with fish protection rules. Specifically, compliance with a new rule that wild coho salmon be released was over 95 percent among fishers contacted by officers, according to WDFW enforcement reports.
The six new officers announced today are:
- Brian Fairbanks, an officer with the Forks Police Department and formerly with the U.S. Parks Service, who will be stationed in Forks.
- Bob Weaver, a former North Carolina officer, who will be stationed in Montesano.
- Paul Golden, a police officer in Texas, who will be stationed in Bremerton.
- Dan Chadwick, a deputy sheriff with Whatcom County, who will be stationed in Long Beach.
- Tammy Conklin, a member of the WDFW Fish Program and WDFW Reserve officer, who will be stationed in Aberdeen.
- Emmett Stormo, an officer for the state Gambling Commission and former Washington State Patrol trooper, who will be stationed in Concrete.
The captain's position will be filled by John Broome, who has 28 years of law enforcement and managerial experience with the Washington State Patrol and currently manages that agency's criminal records division.
"We chose John for the captain's position because of his credentials in information technology, and as a proven leader with the State Patrol's Organized Crime Intelligence Unit," Bjork said. "Improving and enhancing the information technology component of Enforcement operations will provide a heightened ability on the part of field officers to directly access critical databases while in the field, and provide increased officer safety when officers are in remote locations."
The new hires will bring the total number of WDFW commissioned enforcement staff to 156, still three below the number of staff before the agency in 1998 was forced to lay off personnel. Gov. Gary Locke has asked the Legislature to fund 4 more field officers as part of a plan to deal with "problem wildlife" – particularly cougars and bear in suburban areas.