General · January 25, 2021

Hawaii Unique Collaboration Leads To Trained Conservation Officers

DLNR/DOCARE & Honolulu Community College Academy Sends 12 Into the Field

HONOLULU, HI (STL.News) Conservation Resource Enforcement Officers (CREOs) Kelly Woods and Edward Thompson, along with ten others with no background in law enforcement, graduated from the first DLNR Division of Conservation and Resources Enforcement (DOCARE) Academy last July.

For seven and a half months and 1,160 hours of classroom and field training, covering more than 100 different topics, this new crop of DOCARE officers were immersed in the knowledge and skills they would need to join the ranks of Hawai‘i conservation officers.  The DOCARE Training Academy was customized to produce workforce-ready officers.  Honolulu Community College (HonCC) and the Administration of Justice (AJ) Program played a fundamental role in providing academic course work for the academy as well as critical training spaces at the college’s Marine Education and Training Center on Sand Island.

HCC Dean Keala Chock commented, “Due to this innovative training collaboration between noncredit and credit, recruits completed more than half of the required coursework they would need to earn an AJ degree. Several of the new officers with previous credits earned are now uniquely positioned within the AJ pathway and have the opportunity to earn a degree with the completion of 27 additional credits (available online).”

Officers Woods and Thompson were selected by DOCARE leadership to participate in video profiles that will be used as an educational and future recruitment tool.  Woods is assigned to the west side of Hawai‘i island, where on a recent day she conducted a fishing boat inspection and warned snorkelers and kayakers to stop pursuing spinner dolphins.

“We enforce the laws,” she said, “but one of our major roles is to inform and educate first.”  Hawai‘i has a unique plethora of laws and rules that apply to the protection of natural and cultural resources and we were schooled heavily on the application of Hawai‘i’s rules and regulations from experts.  Having the rigor of HonCC’s justice training program gave us the depth and breadth of knowledge we need to be successful DOCARE officers.”

Officer Thompson echoes the value of the DOCARE/HonCC partnership.  During a recent patrol he answered questions about fishing rules for a visitor, responded to a report of a fight in a State park, and watched from shore for fishing and boating violations.  Thompson, who has a degree in Hawaiian Studies, and has worked as an Emergency Medical Technician sees his work as a CREO as an extension of both…helping people and perpetuating Native Hawaiian values to protection of the ocean and the ‘aina.

The concept of a training academy for DOCARE officers without any law enforcement background or formal justice training was the brainchild of former DOCARE Chief Robert Farrell.  After his retirement, the current Chief Jason Redulla fully endorsed the rookie training academy.

Redulla said, “The partnership with and the expertise that HonCC brings to the table is invaluable and actually expedites our ability to bring highly-trained officers on board when we have openings in our ranks.  In addition to successfully passing their academic course work, the officers met rigorous qualifications, passed extensive background checks and physical requirements, and had in-depth personal interviews. We are confident these twelve rookie officers are great additions to our ranks and will serve the people of Hawai‘i with distinction, compassion, and fairness.”

Chock concluded, “The successful implementation of this first training academy, has set a strong foundation for DOCARE and HonCC to provide a clear pathway for recruits to advance in a career, that will directly benefit the conservation enforcement profession.  Moreover, this expands job opportunities for our local students who have a deep passion for protecting Hawai‘i‘s at-risk cultural and natural resources.”