DEC Environmental Conservation Police Officer Highlights

New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) Environmental Conservation Police Officers (ECOs) enforce the 71 Chapters of NY Environmental Conservation Law (ECL), protecting fish and wildlife and preserving environmental quality across New York.

In 2018, the 288 ECOs across the state responded to 21,668 calls and worked on cases that resulted in 20,665 tickets or arrests for crimes ranging from deer poaching to solid waste dumping, illegal mining, the black market pet trade, and excessive emissions violations.

If you witness an environmental crime or believe a violation of environmental law occurred, please call the DEC Division of Law Enforcement hotline at 1-844-DEC-ECOS (1-844-332-3267).

“From Montauk Point to Mount Marcy, from Brooklyn to Buffalo, the ECOs patrolling our state are the first line of defense in protecting New York’s environment and our natural resources, ensuring that they exist for future generations of New Yorkers,” said DEC Commissioner Basil Seggos. “They work long and arduous hours, both deep in our remote wildernesses and in the tight confines of our urban landscapes. Although they don’t receive much public fanfare, the work of our ECOs is critical to achieving DEC’s mission to protect and enhance our environment.”

Recent missions carried out by ECOs include:

Marine Law Enforcement Training – Warren County
During the first week of May, Tech. Sgt. Taryn Tomasik assisted the New York State Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation’s Marine Services Bureau by instructing the pool segment of a week-long Marine Law Enforcement school in Lake George. Topics included tactical awareness, water survival skills, and emergency response in water. ECOs Shane Manns and George LaPoint served as instructors for both classroom and on-water portions of the program. More than 40 officers from 25 police agencies across the state attended, including officers from Buffalo Police, Niagara County Sheriff’s Office, Putnam Police, Suffolk County, and Washington County Sheriff’s Office.

Insta-Ticket – Schoharie County
On May 5, Region 4 wildlife manager Mike Clark received information that a subject in the town of Middleburgh was using live bluegills to catch bass during the closed season. An Instagram post was forwarded to ECOs, and Lt. Michael Terrell assigned ECO Russell Fetterman to investigate. During the subject’s interview, the fisherman first stated that he was fishing for bluegills and “the bass just grabbed on.” Confronted with the Instagram post and evidence he was using a Tru-Turn bass hook, the subject admitted to targeting black bass with live bait. He was ticketed by ECO Fetterman for angling other than permitted by law. The case is pending in the Town of Middleburgh Court.

“Monsey the Bear” – Rockland County
On May 7, ECO Jeremy Fadden responded to reports of a black bear roaming the streets of the village of Monsey in the town of Ramapo. Ramapo Police Officers reported that the male bear had been roaming the streets since 10 a.m. that morning. The bear eventually climbed a tree and remained there for hours. ECO Fadden called DEC wildlife biologist Matt Merchant and wildlife technician Emily Carrollo to help relocate the animal, as a crowd had formed. ECO Jon Walraven responded to assist in keeping the substantial crowd clear of the scene and to provide a safe environment for Merchant and his team to work. “Monsey the Bear,” the name given to the animal by the school children at the scene, quickly became a local celebrity. The bear was successfully tranquilized, and an ECO relocated the animal to a wilderness area in northern Orange Country.

Pace University Outreach – Westchester County
On May 7, ECO Craig Tompkins and Lt. Dustin Dainack spoke at a Masters-level course in the Environmental Policy program at the Pleasantville Campus of Pace University. As part of the course curriculum, ECO Tompkins and Lt. Dainack were asked questions about the day-to-day responsibilities of an ECO and the most interesting cases they’ve handled during their careers. Some students expressed their interest in a career as an ECO or within other fields at DEC, and the officers shared tips and suggestions for achieving these goals.

Muddy Waters – Oneida County
On May 8, ECO John Gates was notified that Little Black Creek in the town of Remsen was heavily discolored, a sign that someone may have been digging in a creek upstream. ECO Gates inspected the area and found the creek heavily loaded with sediment. A search on foot of more than two miles of creek beds provided no answer. On May 10, ECO Gates and the New York State Police Aviation unit flew over the north, south, and middle branches of the creek, but found no direct source of the sediment. Mud slides and failed beaver dams are common in the area, and ECO Gates determined the cause of the muddy water was a natural source.

Taking Turkey Hunting Over the Line – Putnam County
On May 8, ECO Craig Tompkins was at his home when he heard a shotgun blast in the distance. A few minutes later, the officer received a call reporting that a property owner encountered a hunter that had shot a turkey while trespassing on posted property. ECO Tompkins arrived at the scene as the hunter was packing his gear into his vehicle. After a short interview, ECO Tompkins directed the hunter to lead him back to the area where the turkey was shot, eventually determining that the hunter had crossed a posted property boundary separating public and private lands. The hunter was issued tickets for trespassing on posted property and illegally taking the turkey. Both tickets are pending in the Town of Kent Court.

Migratory Bird Day – Richmond County
On May 11, ECO Taylor Della Rocco participated in Migratory Bird Day at Clay Pitts Pond State Park in Richmond County. ECO Della Rocco delivered a presentation to youth and adults on the different types of migratory birds in New York and the obstacles they may encounter during their migrations. The officer also talked to visitors about the importance of protecting wild birds and what ECOs’ daily duties entail. The educational event was highlighted by a live raptor demonstration by a local falconer in Staten Island.

Rake The Lake – Queens County
On May 11, ECOs Zachary Kochanowski, Brendan Dickson, and Joshua Jarecki assisted in an inaugural community event, “Rake the Lake,” at Baisley Pond in Queens. The idea was developed by NYPD Detective Tanya Duhaney of the 113th Precinct to engage the community in cleaning their neighborhood park and the pond. The ECOs were called upon to emphasize the importance of keeping the community’s recreational fishing opportunities clean for future generations. The combined efforts of the ECOs, student volunteers, the Black Forest Group, New York City Parks staff, and NYPD’s 113th Precinct resulted in a total of 10 garbage bags of debris, seven metal barrels, a lounge chair, and a shopping cart removed from the pond. The participants’ work made a significant difference in the cleanup and restoration of this neighborhood’s important ecological resource.