Environmental police officers work to protect and conserve natural resources such as wetlands, forests, public lands and waterways. They must have an excellent understanding of federal, state and local environmental protection laws, and be knowledgeable about natural resource management practices. This career suits police academy graduates with a passion for environmental conservation and a degree in conservation law enforcement.
Obtain Relevant Knowledge
Pursing an associate or bachelor’s degree in conservation law enforcement gives you a solid preparation for a career as an environmental police office and enhances your chances of being accepted into a police training academy. You should learn about the natural environment and the laws that govern its use, surveillance techniques, crime scene analysis and evidence handling. Alternatively, you can pursue an undergraduate degree in a closely-related field, such as environmental science or natural resources management.
Some employers also consider high school graduates without any post-secondary credential, as long as they possess at least two years of environmental services experience.
Complete Police Academy Training
Next, apply to join a federal or state police academy or law enforcement training center. Although recruitment requirements vary by academy, you typically must be a U.S. citizen aged over 21. You must also pass a criminal and drug background check, and meet various physical and mental health requirements. As a trainee, you learn about police ethics, criminal law, first-aid, use of firearms, patrol techniques, emergency response and other relevant subjects.
Master Occupational Skills
To be an accomplished environmental police officer, you need superb outdoor or field skills. If the weather gets snowy when monitoring commercial fishing activities at a lake, for example, you should be able to make a fire and keep warm. Driving skills are useful too, as the job may involve driving off-road police vehicles through and over difficult terrains. You also need practical skills to properly operate chemical immobilizers, handguns and other law enforcement tools, and quick-thinking skills to respond appropriately during emergency operations. Clear communications skills come when in handy when giving evidence in environmental legal proceedings.
Armed with your police training, professional experience and academic credentials, you can search for jobs in environmental agencies such as the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, the U.S. National Park Service, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and the Bureau of Land Management. Jobs are also available in the state versions of these agencies, as well as in various traditional law enforcement agencies, including federal, state and local police departments. After getting hired, some employers may require you to undergo additional training, such as pursuing a lifesaving certification from the American Red Cross or another recognized institution.
After working for several years and obtaining advanced credentials such as a master's degree in law enforcement, you can be promoted to the position of environmental police sergeant.
According to the job site Indeed, environmental police officers earned an average annual salary of $52,000 as of March 2013.
- Commonwealth of Massachusetts Energy and Environmental Affairs: Becoming an Environmental Police Officer
- Unity College: B.S. in Conservation Law Enforcement
- Beal College: Associate Degree in Conservation Law Enforcement
- U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics: Police and Detectives
- Indeed: Environmental Police Officer Salary
- Commonwealth of Massachusetts Executive Office of Public Safety and Security: Apply for a Police Academy
- Photo Credit Mario Tama/Getty Images News/Getty Images
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