Department of Environmental Conservation

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Environmental Conservation Police Officers

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The mission of the Division of Law Enforcement is "to protect and enhance the environment and natural resources of the State of New York while also protecting the health and safety of its people through the enforcement of Environmental Conservation and related laws and public education."

This mission is accomplished by over 330 sworn members of the Division of Law Enforcement. They focus their efforts on Environmental Conservation Law (ECL) enforcement although they are empowered to enforce all laws of the state. Their mission encompasses two broad enforcement areas:

Fish & wildlife enforcement:

  • addressing complaints of poaching;
  • the illegal sale of endangered species; and
  • checking hunters, fishermen, trappers, and commercial fishermen (lobsters, clams, bait fish, food fish) for compliance.

Environmental quality enforcement:

  • investigating timber thefts;
  • illegal water pollution;
  • improper use or application of pesticides;
  • commercial vehicles producing excessive emissions;
  • freshwater and saltwater wetland degradation;
  • illegal mining; and
  • almost any area that affects air, land, or water quality law violations.

Enforcement is comprised of both proactive and reactive patrols in marked police vehicles. Environmental conservation police officers (ECOs) investigate complaints and documents their findings. When sufficient evidence is found, they prepare their case for a successful prosecution in court.

The majority of the division is comprised of uniformed ECOs, who are assigned patrol areas of one or two counties. The supervisory staff includes lieutenants, captains, majors and colonels. Complimenting the uniformed staff is the Bureau of Environmental Crimes Investigation, who investigate significant environmental crimes including misdemeanors and felonies. The division also has a full time dispatch center, a permanent training academy, a police K-9 unit and a marine enforcement unit. Overseeing the entire operation is a uniformed Director of the Division of Law Enforcement.

To contact an Environmental Conservation Police Officer or report suspected violations, call the DEC Law Enforcement Dispatch Center at 1-844-DEC-ECOs (1-844-332-3267) or use the online reporting system to report an environmental problem.

Environmental Conservation Police Officer job description, qualifications and salary information

Watch a video of Environmental Conservation Officers at work in New York City (Large file - 47 MB, .wmv format) from New York Conservation Officers Association website. (leaves DEC website)

2018 Annual Division of Law Enforcement Awards (PDF)

Day in the Life of an ECO

ECO Mike Arp and his K9 partner

Mike Arp, an Environmental Conservation Officer (ECO) for 20 years, is a member of the thin green line that protects both people and the environment.

Why choose an ECO career?

"I grew up in the Catskills, hunting and fishing my whole life," Arp said. " I come from a long line of law enforcement people in my family. So, I knew I wanted to get into law enforcement. What better way to combine law enforcement with hunting, fishing and being outdoors?" he asked.

An ECO's routine is hardly routine.

"You have a lot of options during the course of a day," he said. "Getting up in the morning, I never know what I'm going to encounter. It's something different every day."

ECOs patrol assigned sectors enforcing the laws for hunting, fishing, trapping, protecting wetlands, disposing of solid and hazardous waste, using pesticides, protecting endangered species, navigating waterways and using ATVs to name a few. The variety of situations and options for responding to them induce a sense of adventure that Arp finds appealing.

Officer Arp worked with a police dog in the K-9 unit for nearly a decade. "When I originally got the dog, we were the only K-9 unit in Greene County. I was getting a lot of calls whether for tracking bad guys or finding lost people. Dogs are also used quite a bit during big game seasons to detect illegally taken deer and bear meat and spent shell casings."

You have to understand what you're getting into.

"It's police work," Arp said. "That's something people have to realize. You go out thinking you're going to check fishing licenses and end up assisting another agency with someone who took off into woods after burglarizing a house. You have POLICE written on your vehicle. So when you come upon flagrant violations of the law, whether related to environmental conservation or not, people expect you to do something."

The rewards are worth it.

"The best part of the job is helping people, even if it's just answering a simple question," he said. "You walk away with a handshake from someone you've helped every day. That's a good feeling."


More about Environmental Conservation Police Officers:

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