The Perception of Utah Division of Wildlife Resource’s Law Enforcement by Local, County and Municipal Law Enforcement Agencies
Date of Award
Master of Natural Resources (MNR)
Like most states throughout the nation, Utah’s population has continually grown since settlement. In 2014 Utah’s population was estimated at 2.95 million and between 2015-2016 Utah had the highest percentage growth rate of any state in the nation. This profound amount of growth can be attributed to many factors that are unique to Utah; two of which are the aesthetic and recreational opportunities available to Utah residents.
Due to population growth and urban sprawl, areas commonly patrolled by Utah Division of Wildlife Resources (UDWR) conservation officers are now located closer to urban populations. Previously rural or backcountry areas are seeing increases in recreational use by the residents of newly developed and expanding communities. Because of the increased use, conservation officers are encountering and performing “traditional police work” (drug enforcement, domestic violence issues, property theft, DUI, etc.) more frequently than ever before. Additionally, conservation officers are seeing an increase in requests to respond to non-wildlife crimes that occur within developed areas due to the proximity of their enforcement areas to urban fronts; especially in northern Utah. These factors have increased the frequency with which UDWR conservation officers and local law enforcement officials’ work together to address enforcement related issues within local communities.
Despite the increased level of interaction between conservation officers and local law enforcement officers, the increased number of police agencies that do traditional police work within the state of Utah, and the fact that conservation officers have increased their knowledge of and experience with traditional police work, it is believed that traditional police agencies within the state have a limited understanding of wildlife law enforcement tasks addressed by the conservation officers working within their own community (hunting, fishing, and trapping license compliance enforcement, poaching investigations and a conservation officer’s role in wildlife management, to name a few). The results of the survey described in this paper indicate the lack of knowledge pertaining to wildlife law enforcement by traditional agencies is a rather common occurrence throughout Utah. The goal of the survey is to establish a baseline for the following: 1) knowledge other law enforcement agencies have regarding wildlife law enforcement, 2) perceived value of wildlife law enforcement within the broader law enforcement community, 3) impediments to cooperative work efforts between the UDWR law enforcement section and other law enforcement agencies within the state, 4) perceived shortcomings of UDWR in the eyes of different law enforcement agencies, 5) how to close the knowledge gap between agencies to produce more cohesive and effective field enforcement efforts, and 6) how to maintain working relationships once they have been created.
The answers provided by surveyed agencies show: 1) only 16% have a strong understanding of the roles and responsibilities held by a conservation officer while almost 20% know little to nothing about conservation officers and their work responsibilities (Baseline #1), 2) virtually 100% of the surveyed agencies feel it is important that UDWR conservation officers spend their time enforcing wildlife-related violations and would expect their officers to contact a UDWR conservation officer if a wildlife-related crime was detected by their agency’s officers (Baseline #2), 3) while overall there were positive results relating to communication, especially in the rural communities, there is a belief that UDWR conservation officers could communicate better with office and field personnel associated with other law enforcement agencies (Baselines #3 and #4), and 4) traditional law enforcement agencies would like to see UDWR conservation officers attend trainings with them or provide trainings to them and/or interact with officers in the field so they can better understand who local UDWR conservation officers are and what they do on a daily basis (Baselines #5 and #6).
Bubak, Wyatt, "The Perception of Utah Division of Wildlife Resource’s Law Enforcement by Local, County and Municipal Law Enforcement Agencies" (2018). All Graduate Plan B and other Reports. 1306.
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