DNR to combine all law enforcement training

The Ohio DNR has decided that all its lawmen will receive the same basic training under a uniform law enforcement training program.

“This new initiative provides the required training for all of the commissioned officers at ODNR in one consistent and effective program,” the department said in announcing its new one-size-fits-all plan for its wildlife officers, watercraft officers, and park rangers, to name the principals of what has been called the “Thin Green Line.”

Most such lawmen often find themselves alone in a remote area, without an armored, snipered-up, gangbuster SWAT-team backup, like regular cops. Hence the term Thin Green Line. Well, they used to wear green, not SWAT-team black.

“Our officers are required to receive the same training and abide by the same policies, yet they are not training together,” said ODNR Director James Zehringer. “Each law enforcement division will remain separate and keep their unique identity, but now they will be cohesively trained in their region with less time spent traveling.”

Wildlife officers and natural resources officers are trained on similar procedures such as defensive tactics, response to resistance and aggression, firearms and field scenarios. In the case of an emergency, they act as backup support if needed, but they rarely train together, the department said.

Training will now be done regionally in smaller groups, allowing for more flexibility, less time out of the field and a consistent standard across commissioned officers, the ODNR said. This will reduce travel and overnight expenses, allowing officers to train at the closest facility, while increasing the efficiency of the trainings through a coordinated effort. Additionally, this program creates a centralized track for qualifications and Ohio Peace Officer Training Academy certifications for all officers regardless of division.

Greg Wade will lead the ODNR Law Enforcement Training Program as the coordinator, working with the current Division of Wildlife and Division of Parks and Watercraft law enforcement instructors. Wade has been a commissioned officer with the Division of Wildlife for more than 24 years, with more than 10 years as an officer trainer.

It makes sense to a degree to consolidate ODNR law enforcement training, at least insofar as the basics go. But wildlife officers better know about fish and wildlife management, watercraft officers need boating and navigation skills, and park rangers need enhanced people management skills. These are somewhat exclusive skills, and the ODNR has not explained how it addresses them. These jobs often simply are not the same.

It all looks good on paper, efficiency-wise and with money-savings and all, which has been the Kasich administration’s mantra with its treatment of the ODNR, and all else, from Day One. Constituency service, the public good, finishes in second place.

True, it doesn’t hurt for a park ranger to understand the nature of hunting and fishing enforcement, since much of each occurs in state parks. And it does no harm for a wildlife officer to understand the difficulties that park rangers face.

But in its drive for penny-pinching efficiency, the ODNR also has stripped all park managers of their law enforcement credentials/commissions. So now park rangers report directly and only to Columbus headquarters. As it is nowadays in these do-more-with-less mindset, more than a few state park managers are responsible for more than one unit.

So, should a park manager receive information about a possible law enforcement issue in some other park, he or she will no longer be able to respond. If no park ranger is available, well, too bad. Or a park ranger may simply have to tell a park manager that he or she can’t help because his or her superiors in Fountain Square have given another task or assignment.

Maybe they could just call a wildlife or watercraft officer.

Categories: Ohio – Steve Pollick

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