DOCARE officers at graduation

Twelve new Hawaiʻi Department of Land and Natural Resources (DLNR) conservation officers with no previous background in law enforcement were the first to graduate in 2020 from the Division of Conservation and Resources Enforcement (DOCARE) Academy, a novel training collaboration with Honolulu Community College.

The program was designed to produce workforce ready DOCARE officers, and spanned more than seven months and 1,160 hours of classroom and field training. Honolulu CC’s Administration of Justice 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.

DOCARE officers at graduation

“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 [administration of justice] degree,” said Honolulu CC Dean Keala Chock

. “Several of the new officers with previous credits earned are now uniquely positioned within the [administration of justice] pathway and have the opportunity to earn a degree with the completion of 27 additional credits (available online).”

DOCARE Chief Jason Redulla said, “The partnership with and the expertise that Honolulu CC 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 12 rookie officers are great additions to our ranks and will serve the people of Hawaiʻi with distinction, compassion and fairness.”

In the field

DOCARE Academy graduate Kelly Woods is assigned to the west side of Hawaiʻi Island, where recently 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. Hawaiʻi 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 Hawaiʻi’s rules and regulations from experts. Having the rigor of Honolulu CC’s justice training program gave us the depth and breadth of knowledge we need to be successful DOCARE officers.”

Fellow graduate and Conservation Resource Enforcement Officer Edward Thompson recently 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 current job as an extension of both, as he helps people and perpetuates Native Hawaiian values to protect the ocean and the ʻāina.

Clear career pathway

Chock added, “The successful implementation of this first training academy, has set a strong foundation for DOCARE and Honolulu CC 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 Hawaiʻi‘s at-risk cultural and natural resources.”

DOCARE officers at graduation