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For Release: Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Robert O'Connor Honored as Top New York Conservation Police Officer

DEC Investigator Receives "Officer of the Year Award" for Outstanding Service

New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) today announced that Bureau of Environmental Crimes Investigation (BECI) Lieutenant Robert O'Connor was named the "2012 New York Officer of the Year" by the Northeast Conservation Law Enforcement Chiefs Association (NECLECA). NECLECA consists of the law enforcement chiefs from 13 Northeastern states, three Eastern provinces of Canada and the United States and Canadian Federal Conservation Law Enforcement agencies.

"Lieutenant O' Connor is a tremendous asset to DEC's Division of Law Enforcement and is extremely deserving of this honor," said DEC Commissioner Joe Martens. "His notable work ethic, integrity and professionalism make him an outstanding Investigator that DEC is proud to have working on the public's behalf in environmental criminal enforcement."

Lieutenant O'Connor has served with distinction in DEC's Division of Law Enforcement for nearly twenty-five years. After completing DEC's eighth Basic Academy for Police Officers in 1989, O'Connor was initially assigned to patrol Westchester County. He transferred to DEC's Region 9 office in 1992, where he has been serving since.

As an Environmental Conservation Officer in Region 9, Officer O'Connor excelled at enforcing the entire range of fish and wildlife conservation law, educating the public and solving numerous cases, including the recovery of the renowned New York State "Lucky Buck" original antlers that had been missing for over a decade.

In 2005, O'Connor was promoted to Investigator and joined DEC's Bureau of Environmental Crimes Investigation (BECI) Unit, where he worked diligently to protect the environment and public health and safety through investigations into environmental crimes and crimes against the state's fish and wildlife resources.

Since becoming an Investigator, O'Connor has completed more than 150 investigations, some spanning months, on cases ranging from large federal asbestos and air quality crimes to in-depth hunter related shootings and endangered species cases. He contributed extensively to DEC's Operation Shellshock, which made strides in addressing the sale and trafficking of endangered reptiles in New York State and beyond. He also played an essential role in the investigation and trial of the highly publicized Tonawanda Coke case, whose verdict represents the second only time that a conviction has been obtained for a Criminal Clean Air Act case involving airborne toxins.

As an Investigator, O'Connor also received Captain's Commendations for the successful prosecution of a company for hazardous waste felonies and for his investigative work that led to the arrest and conviction in the poisoning death of two Bald Eagles and numerous other birds.

During his years of service with DEC's Division of Law Enforcement, Lieutenant O'Connor has supported responses to several major emergency events, including his assistance as a first responder to the 9-11 world trade center tragedy. He also served as a member of the cooperative law enforcement team that resolved the Bucky Phillips search and he continues to serve as Region 9's Division representative to the Critical Incident Response Team.

Lieutenant O'Connor is known for his fairness, attention to detail and ability to collaborate effectively with other agencies to successfully resolve cases. He is consistently recognized and relied upon by partner law enforcement agencies for his expertise and efforts to advance interagency cooperation.

Most recently, O'Connor was promoted from Investigator to Lieutenant and now oversees DEC Region 9's Bureau of Environmental Crimes Investigation Unit. O'Connor resides in Gowanda with his wife and five children.

Each year, NECLECA sponsors an award for the "Conservation Officer of the Year" acknowledging the important role that Conservation Police Officers play in local, national, and international wildlife conservation. NECLECA's 2012 award was presented to Lieutenant O'Connor at an annual meeting of the Northeast Association of Fish and Wildlife Agencies meeting held in Saratoga Springs.

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