Tag Archives: law enforcement

California Wildlife Officers Receive State’s Highest Honor, Medal of Valor

California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) officers Ryan Stephenson and Timothy Little received awards today at the 2016 Governor’s State Employee Medal of Valor Award Ceremony in Sacramento. The awards acknowledge state employees for acts of heroism and bravery. Officer Stephenson and Little will both receive the Gold Medal for their “Special Acts” defined by the program as, “an extraordinary act of heroism by a state employee extending far above and beyond the normal call of duty or service performed at great risk to his/her own life in an effort to save human life.”

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Wildlife Officer Ryan Stephenson:

On September 12, 2015 approximately 3 p.m., Stephenson was patrolling Lake County when the Valley Fire ignited. The fire had just consumed the small town of Cobb and was now headed toward Middletown and Hidden Valley Lake.

Stephenson raced ahead of the inferno to warn people about the fire and help them evacuate so they wouldn’t be trapped by the flames. Working door to door, he had evacuated several homes and escorted eight people to safety when one of the residents realized their neighbor had been overlooked. The neighbor, an 88-year-old wheelchair bound woman, was still in her home, lying on the couch, unaware of the approaching fire. Officer Stephenson quickly returned to her street, which was now engulfed in flames, identified the woman’s house, entered, and found her asleep on her couch. She was unable to get out on her own, so Officer Stephenson carried her in his arms to his patrol truck. As he was getting ready to leave, the woman told him she was worried about her dog. Officer Stephenson then went back into her home and returned to the truck with her dog, driving them all to safety just minutes before her home became engulfed in flames. The fire subsequently destroyed the woman’s home.

Stephenson’s heroic act saved the life of an elderly woman and her dog.

Wildlife Officer Timothy Little:

On September 12, 2015 approximately 3 p.m., Little was working as a safety patrol in the town of Cobb as he and other first responders scrambled to evacuate or assist residents during the Valley Fire.

As the fire began to consume the small town of Cobb, an emergency call went out about an elderly woman trapped in her home and in need of immediate rescue. Hearing radio calls from other rescue personnel saying they were unable to respond because of fire and debris in the roadway, Little immediately headed toward the woman’s home. Driving his patrol vehicle through raging flames and burning road hazards, Little found the house and entered the home where he found an elderly woman trapped with her 11-month old granddaughter. Little rescued both the woman and child, getting them out of their home safely just minutes before fire incinerated her home.

Shortly afterward, Little learned that another elderly woman was trapped in her house and needed serious medical attention. He also learned that no medical transport crews would be able to make it there in time. He raced to provide aid. After locating the house, he found the woman trapped on the second floor, unable to walk. Little carried her down a flight of stairs to a waiting vehicle and escorted them to the hospital. Little then continued to assist in other searches.

Little’s heroic acts saved the lives of two women and one infant.

“Our more than 400 wildlife officers understand and accept their roles as peace officers, caretakers, guardians and public servants,” said CDFW Chief of Law Enforcement David Bess. “They are well trained and prepared to not only deal with wildlife law enforcement, but general peace officer work and first responder duties. The brave and selfless acts by these officers exemplify the outstanding force of CDFW wildlife officers.”

Media Contacts:
Lt. Chris Stoots, CDFW Law Enforcement, (916) 651-9982

Shikar-Safari Club International Honors Lt. Andrew Halverson as Wildlife Officer of the Year

California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) Lt. Andrew Halverson was recently selected by the Shikar-Safari Club International as recipient of its 2015 Wildlife Officer of the Year award.HalversonAndrew (2)

Shikar-Safari honors one wildlife officer each year who exemplifies outstanding leadership, skill, conduct and ingenuity in the performance of his or her duties. Lt. Halverson demonstrates these characteristics and more, and is recognized as a true leader among his peers, fellow wildlife officers and command staff. He has good working relationships with allied agencies and constituents in communities he proudly serves. He is known and respected for his work ethic, sense of humor, professionalism and integrity. In addition to performing his lieutenant duties in Kern County, he balances a diverse case load, field training officer tasks, department firearms armorer tasks and his special assignment to the Inland Region of the California Hazardous Materials Investigators Association, covering 13 counties.

“Lt. Halverson truly encompasses everything the Shikar-Safari award stands for,” said CDFW Law Enforcement Division Chief David Bess.

Lt. Halverson embodies the skills and abilities of a well-rounded wildlife officer and leads his squad of six in Kern County by example. Last year, Halverson was lead case officer in several challenging cases involving environmental and habitat violations. He takes the extra steps necessary to assure properly investigated cases, with accurate documentation of events and actions. His value as an investigator is immeasurable. Halverson possesses a master’s degree in forensics and has five years of experience as a crime scene investigator. As a lieutenant, he is creative, supportive and readily applies his abilities to stop poachers, polluters and unlawful marijuana cultivators.

Kern County has experienced an increase in black bear activity over the last few years and as result, Lt. Halverson and his squad have handled a high volume of difficult human-wildlife conflicts involving bears. They have handled a variety of issues ranging from bears in homes, bears in trees and bears in towns. Halverson applies his creative nature to develop unique and successful approaches to dealing with these challenges.

Halverson readily conducts public outreach events and meetings. He has a talent for working with the public, the media, businesses and allied law enforcement agencies. Regardless of the challenges, even in highly charged and potentially political situations, Lt. Halverson has a natural ability to see problems through to a successful resolution.

Shikar-Safari was founded in 1952 as a hunting organization but quickly recognized its potential to affect meaningful change in the area of wildlife conservation. Funds raised by the Shikar-Safari Club International Foundation are used to support various conservation projects in the United States and throughout the world.

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Media Contact:
Lt. Chris Stoots, CDFW Law Enforcement Division, (916) 651-9982

CDFW and Partners Arrest Six Involved In Illegal Marijuana Cultivation

A multi-agency drug raid has resulted in six arrests in a sweeping action taken to reduce illegal marijuana cultivation and resulting environmental damage in California.

Officers from the California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) and several allied agencies made the arrests during a wide-ranging raid on Sept. 4. The suspects were taken into custody and will be charged with multiple violations, including cultivation of marijuana, possession for sale of marijuana, maintaining a place for the sale of narcotics, felony conspiracy, grand theft of water, pollution of state waters, litter near state waters and unlawful water diversion.

Arrested were Pedro P. Tejeda of Galt, 50, Jose Luis Aguilar of Elk Grove, 54, Juan Garcia Baltazar Lopez of Sacramento, 26, Jorge Ornelas Garcia of Lodi, 47, Arnulfo Castillo Torres of Lodi, 53, and Antonio Avilez Carrillo of Delco, Idaho, 23.

CDFW and its partners had been gathering information on the suspects for months.  They are suspected of having supplied a number of marijuana grows previously raided by CDFW wildlife officers.

“Diligent reconnaissance and investigative work by our officers laid the groundwork for a successful operation,” said CDFW Assistant Chief Brian Naslund. “Our department will continue to strive to protect the natural resources of our state by aggressively pursuing marijuana cultivators who steal water during an unprecedented drought, damage the environment and imperil wildlife.”

Over the past several years, officers from various state and federal agencies have identified four large marijuana grow sites within San Joaquin, Sacramento and Contra Costa counties that have been linked to an unknown drug trafficking organization. Two sites were located at the White Slough Wildlife Area in San Joaquin County. Two others were located west of Interstate 5, between Twin Cities and Dierssen roads, in Sacramento County. A fifth site was located on Webb Tract Island in Contra Costa County.

Wildlife officers – with assistance from the Federal Bureau of Investigation, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, the California Highway Patrol, the El Dorado Sheriff’s Department, the San Joaquin County Sheriff’s Department and the Elk Grove Police Department – made the arrests at residences and businesses in various locations in Sacramento, Lodi, Galt and Elk Grove. Officers also confiscated five vehicles, a boat/trailer, and recovered one stolen firearm.

CDFW is heavily involved in operations to rid California of illegal marijuana grows, which are becoming an increasing problem in the state as the historic drought wears on.

Marijuana growers steal substantial amounts of water, exacerbating severe drought conditions. Marijuana plants use six to eight gallons of water per plant, per day, and are a direct hazard to wildlife that eat the plants or drink from contaminated water stores. Wildlife is also frequently poached at the grow sites. Law enforcement officials are also concerned that people walking or hiking could be in danger if they accidentally come across a marijuana cultivation site, as illicit growers usually carry weapons.

CalTIP (Californians Turn in Poachers and Polluters) is a confidential secret witness program that encourages the public to provide CDFW with factual information leading to the arrest of poachers and polluters. If you witness a poaching or polluting incident or any fish and wildlife violation, or have information about such a violation, please call 1-888-334-CALTIP (888-334-2258), 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

For a brief video shot by wildlife officers on the day of the takedown, see file folder: Sep4MarijuanaOp at ftp://ftp.dfg.ca.gov/oceo/.


Media Contacts:
Lt. Chris Stoots, CDFW Law Enforcement, (916) 651-9982

Capt. Patrick Foy, CDFW Law Enforcement, (916) 651-6692

CDFW Now Recruiting New Wildlife Officers

The California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) is recruiting those interested in a career as a wildlife officer. CDFW will accept applications for wildlife officer cadet through the final filing deadline of Oct. 16, 2015. CDFW is particularly interested in recruiting applicants with a passion for conservation of California’s fish and wildlife resources.Warden with binoculars

For information on minimum qualifications and other requirements for wildlife officer cadets, please visit www.dfg.ca.gov/enforcement/career/.

The CDFW Law Enforcement Division expects an overwhelming number of inquiries and asks prospective candidates to extensively review materials on the website before contacting CDFW with questions.

California wildlife officers are charged with ensuring public safety, enforcing fish and wildlife laws, investigating illegal sales of wildlife, protecting the state from pollution, enforcing habitat protection laws, fighting illegal drug trafficking, keeping the homeland secure and responding during natural disasters. As peace officers, they have the authority to enforce all California laws, such as the Vehicle Code and Penal Code, and are federally deputized to enforce federal fish and wildlife laws.

A typical day for a California wildlife officer is diverse as the state’s fish and wildlife. Wildlife officers patrol ocean, desert, mountain and valley environments, as well as urban areas. They frequently work independently and conduct full-scale law enforcement investigations. Wildlife officers employ everything from all-terrain vehicles to jet skis and snowmobiles while on patrol and spend much of their typical day making contact with Californians in the great outdoors. CDFW has a dive team and utilizes K-9 partners as well. Environmental crimes and pollution incidents also fall under the purview of wildlife officers. Annually, wildlife officers make contact with more than 295,000 people and issue more than 15,000 citations for violations of the law.

Successful applicants will enter a 31-week academy training program, followed by 19 weeks of field training, where they will work with a seasoned field training officer. CDFW’s academy at Butte College is California Peace Officer Standards and Training certified. Cadets are trained as police officers with specific emphasis on wildlife, pollution and habitat protection.

In California, with 159,000 square miles of habitat and wildlife diversity unequaled by any other state, the average wildlife officer has a patrol district of more than 600 square miles. The state has more than 1,100 miles of coastline, 30,000 miles of rivers and streams, 4,800 lakes and reservoirs, three desert habitat areas and scores of high mountain peaks.

For more information and to apply, please visit the following links:

Applications must be postmarked no later than Oct. 16.


Media Contacts:
Lt. Chris Stoots, CDFW Law Enforcement, (916) 651-9982

Cpt. Patrick Foy, CDFW Law Enforcement, (916) 651-6692

CDFW Wildlife Officer Academy Graduates 30 Cadets

Media Contacts:
Lt. Chris Stoots, CDFW Law Enforcement, (916) 651-9982
Cpt. Patrick Foy, CDFW Law Enforcement, (916) 651-6692

Thirty new law enforcement cadets graduated from the California Wildlife Officer Academy during ceremonies at the Performing Arts Center in Paradise on Aug. 14, 2015. The graduating class includes 23 sponsored warden cadets who will begin field training immediately. Another seven self-sponsored cadets paid their way through the academy and will apply to become wildlife officers.

Cadet William H. Castillo and his father, Lt. Sam Castillo, rejoice at the graduation ceremony.

“After 31 weeks of hard work at the academy, these cadets have earned the right to begin protecting California and ensuring the future of wildlife resources for the people of this great state,” said California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) Chief of Enforcement David Bess.

The CDFW Wildlife Officer Academy is certified through the California Peace Officer Standards and Training (POST) and offers training consistent with every law enforcement agency in California.

For the 23 sponsored cadets, graduation concludes a rigorous 31 weeks of formal academy training, but marks the beginning of an additional three weeks of specialized training and certifications, followed by an additional 15 weeks of field training with seasoned field training officers (FTOs). Upon successful completion of the FTO program, these new officers will begin their incredible career patrolling California and protecting the fish and wildlife resources.

A special moment will occur during this year’s graduation, when Cadet William H. Castillo will be pinned by his father, Lt. Sam Castillo. Lt. Castillo is nearing retirement after a noteworthy ­­­30 year career as a wildlife officer and Lieutenant for CDFW. Lt. Castillo will pass the torch to his son to honor the commitment of all wildlife officers who dedicate their lives to protecting California’s natural resources.

Annually, wildlife officers make contact with more than 295,000 people and issue more than 15,000 citations. Wardens mostly work alone, in remote areas, contacting subjects who nearly always have some form of weapon, and they do so knowing that backup could be hours away. Wardens cover large patrol districts, the average being more than 600 square miles. They do all this with a sense of pride and honor, for a job that is not only rewarding, but truly enjoyable.

In 2007, CDFW teamed with Butte College to provide peace officer academy training for prospective wardens. That partnership provided CDFW a state of the art academy facility and a POST-certified training program for wildlife officer cadets on the Butte College Oroville campus.

Butte College has a 40-year history of police recruit training. The 928-acre community college campus, the largest in California, is also a designated wildlife refuge.

CDFW anticipates the next round of warden cadet selection to begin in September or October of 2015, for the January 2017 academy. For more information about becoming a warden and to monitor when applications will be accepted, please visit www.dfg.ca.gov/enforcement/career/.