DEEP: DEEP Honors Environmental Conservation Police Officers: Annual Ceremony Recognizes Outstanding Performance

2017 Press Release
 

May 15, 2017
 
 
DEEP Honors Environmental Conservation Police Officers: Annual Ceremony Recognizes Outstanding Performance
 
Exemplary efforts to protect public safety and environment cited
 
Connecticut’s Department of Energy and Environmental Protection (DEEP) Commissioner Robert Klee  recognized several Environmental Conservation (EnCon) Police Officers and others for their exemplary work in protecting Connecticut’s citizens and the environment at a ceremony on May 15 at Harkness Memorial State Park in Waterford. 
 
“Those we are honoring are part of an outstanding law enforcement tradition that dates back more than a century,” said DEEP Commissioner Robert Klee.  “Our EnCon officers play a unique role by performing traditional law enforcement duties as well as enforcement of the state’s fish and wildlife laws, investigation of boating accidents, handling of exotic species, and conducting search and rescue operations.” 
 
At the DEEP’s annual EnCon recognition ceremony, Klee joined EnCon Police Colonel Kyle Overturf in presenting awards in seven categories:
  • Unit Citations:  West District– EnCon Officers Edward Yescott, Erin Flockhart (K9 Ellie) and Sergeant Tate Begley. Marine District – EnCon Sergeant Todd Chemacki, and Officers Robert Monday, Karen Reilly, Alexandria Blackwell, Jeffrey Bruno, Patrick Kiely (K9 Balou). Madison PD Officers Christopher Dube, Phillip Rosaiti, and Harold French, Madison Fire Department Firefighters Christopher Yenco, Gregory Carroll and Jeffery Young.
     
  • Medal for Meritorious Service: EnCon Officers Christian Hage, Britni Scatena-Kurtznacker, Dean Wojcik and Ryan Mihalyak
     
  • Medal for Outstanding Service: EnCon Sergeant Tate Begley
     
  • Lifesaving Award: EnCon Officers Jesse Nivolo and Glenn Fergason. Civilians Adam Curtin, Jacob Bernard and Jacob Picard
     
  • Boating Officer of the Year: Encon Officer Joseph Ruggiero
     
  • Shikar-Safari Officer of the Year Award: EnCon Officer Erin Flockhart
     
  • Dispatcher: EnCon Dispatcher Clarence Kinney
State Environmental Conservation Police
 
Known as “Special Game Protectors” when first created in 1895, the State Environmental Conservation Police are responsible for protecting the public and Connecticut’s natural resources through public education and outreach, prevention of crime and accidents and the enforcement of laws and regulations.  EnCon officers work in three law enforcement districts - East, West and Marine - and nine areas of expertise: Fish and Game, Boating, Commercial Fishing, Wildlife Management, Parks and Forests, Recreational Vehicles, Search and Rescue, Homeland Security, and Public Outreach.
 
All EnCon officers are fully certified law enforcement officials with full arrest powers. In addition to traditional law enforcement duties, they have special responsibilities for protecting Connecticut’s natural resources and wildlife.
 
The EnCon police are a part of the DEEP’s Bureau of Outdoor Recreation and are under the command of Colonel Kyle Overturf.
 
2017 ENCON Police Awards
 
Unit Citation
 
Recognizes exceptional collective effort by members of a district, sector or specialized unit.  A medal for Unit Citation service award bar will be permanently displayed on each officer’s uniform.

Western District EnCon Officers Edward Yescott, Erin Flockhart (K9 Ellie) and Sergeant Tate Begley.

On the morning of December 8, 2015, members of the Northwest Sector apprehended a convicted felon in possession of a firearm.  Over the course of several years Sergeant Begley had been gathering intelligence, information and evidence on illegal poaching activity occurring on National Parks Service property in the town of Kent.

After a lengthy investigation, and the hard work of Officer Yescott and Officer Flockhart and Canine Officer Ellie, a male, who was a convicted felon, was arrested and charged with Criminal Possession of a Firearm, Criminal Trespass in the 3rd degree, Negligent Hunting in the 3rd degree, Negligent Hunting in the 4th degree, Hunting without 400 square inches of orange, and Deer Hunting with 00 buck. The case was then transferred to the US Attorney’s Office where the officers worked in conjunction with US Fish and Wildlife and ATF for the prosecution of the individual on federal weapons and wildlife charges. In December of 2016 the violator was sentenced to a federal prison term.
 
Marine District EnCon Sergeant Todd Chemacki, and Officers Robert Monday, Alexandria Blackwell, Jeffrey Bruno, Patrick Kiely (K9 Balou).

On October 7, 2016, while monitoring State Police radio communications, EnCon Officers overheard Troop F relay that Madison Police were looking for an armed and dangerous suspect.  The suspect had fled on foot into a heavily wooded area after a motor vehicle stop on Route 80 in Madison.  Madison Police were looking for assistance in searching for the suspect who was wanted for multiple felonies in two states. 
 
Sergeant Todd Chemacki, Officers Robert Monday, Alexandra Blackwell, Jeffrey Bruno, Patrick Kiely and his K-9 partner Balou responded to the scene. EnCon Officers searched the heavily wooded area and local residences looking for the suspect.  The search continued for approximately seven hours.  As a result of the alertness and quick response of EnCon Officers the suspect was pushed out of the heavily wooded area and apprehended. 
 
Marine District – EnCon Sergeant Todd Chemacki, and Officers Robert Monday, Karen Reilly. Madison Police Officers Christopher Dube, Phillip Rosati, and Harold French. Madison Fire Department Firefighters Christopher Yenco, Gregory Carroll and Jeffrey Young.

On August 28, 2016, EnCon officers were on patrol at Hammonasset Beach State Park and responded to multiple reports of a male who was causing a disturbance in the vicinity of West Beach. Officer Reilly located the individual, and due to his aggressive demeanor she called for backup. After a lengthy argumentative and combative scene, EnCon Police and Madison Police Officers along with Madison Firemen assisted by pepper spraying the suspect at which time he was subdued and finally detained. Madison Officer French provided valuable assistance in caring for the suspect pending the transport to a local area hospital for treatment and evaluation. 
 
The actions of EnCon Sergeant Chemacki and Officers Reilly, Monday, Madison Police Officers Dube, Rosati, French and Madison Hose Company #1 members Yenco, Carroll and Young exemplify outstanding cooperation and professionalism to apprehend a violent subject.
 
Medal For Meritorious Service

The Medal for Meritorious Service shall be awarded to any person who renders service beyond the ordinary course of duty with alertness, perseverance, or timely judgment in the performance of a difficult task which results in the protection of life, the recovery of stolen property, the prevention or solving of a major crime, or the apprehension of an armed or dangerous person. A medal for Meritorious Service award bar with two gold stars will be permanently displayed on each officer’s uniform.
 
EnCon Officers Christian Hage and Ryan Mihalyak

On April 18, 2016, Officer Hage was patrolling the Quinnipiac River in Meriden when he observed a male and female both actively fishing. After reviewing their fishing licenses, it was evident that neither angler had purchased a valid 2016 fishing license. When Officer Mihalyak heard the request for the anglers license information he advised Officer Hage that he had found the same male’s license earlier in the day while patrolling the Mill River.
 
The Officers interviewed both suspects, and determined that the Conservation ID Number on one of the forged licenses belonged to another individual. Officer Hage obtained warrants for the arrest of both suspects, who subsequently turned themselves in for the violation of Forgery 2nd degree, Conspiracy to commit Forgery 2nd degree, and Fishing w/o a license.
 
Officers Hage and Mihalyak’s attention to detail, persistent investigation, and meticulous documentation resulted in the arrests of the accused who presumably had been forging their fishing licenses for the past 5 years. They are commended for their dedication to duty.
 
EnCon Officer Britni Scatena-Kurtznacker

On January 14, 2016, while traveling on Route 32 in Willington, Officer Britni Scatena-Kurtzenacker came upon a one-car motor vehicle accident. Officer Scatena- Kurtzenacker found a lone 16-year-old male standing in the vehicle compartment, covered with blood and complaining of face and leg pain.
 
Officer Scatena-Kurtzenacker assisted the male and learned that a utility pole had been struck and wires were across the road. Officer Scatena-Kurtzenacker blocked the highway with her vehicle, tended to the victim and maintained scene safety. Officer Scatena-Kurtzenacker consoled the victim until he was transported to a local hospital via ambulance for further treatment. 
 
Officer Scatena-Kurtzenacker’s actions in responding to the initial accident, ensuring the public safety of all motorists, and rendering assistance and comfort to the suicidal accident victim are in the finest traditions of the agency, department and law enforcement.
 
EnCon Officer Dean Wojcik

On September 28, 2016, Officer Dean Wojcik was off-duty at the Hartford Hospital emergency room when he heard a loud commotion in the hallway. Officer Wojcik ran to the hallway to discover a violent patient had bypassed security measures to escape a locked ward, and observed hospital staff engaged in a struggle with the subject. Without regard for his safety, he ran toward the altercation and subdued the man.
 
In the process Officer Wojcik received minor cuts, scratches and bruises without injuring the subject. Later, the Hartford Hospital Security Director called EnCon Police to thank Officer Wojcik for his assistance, stating that there could have been many injured staff or patients, and that Officer Wojcik did a great job in quickly and safely subduing a violent, mentally ill patient. 
 
Officer Wojcik’s professional behavior and intervention is a compliment to his character and dedication to duty.  His actions are in the highest traditions of this Department.
 
 
Medal for Outstanding Service
 
The Division Medal for Outstanding Service or Achievement is awarded for successful performance of an extremely complex or difficult investigation, the demonstration of exceptional skill or ingenuity in the apprehension of a wanted person, outstanding service to the public or the agency, or to an officer who continuously achieves excellence in the performance of his or her duties over an extended time period. A Medal for Achievement award bar with one gold star will be permanently displayed on each officer’s uniform.

EnCon Sergeant Tate Begley
 
On May 12, 2016, dispatch was notified of a possible missing female hiker on the Appalachian Trail. The incident was reported by hikers who stayed the night at a campground stating that a female’s belongings were found at a site on the trail and they feared that she was either abducted or drowned in the river. Sergeant Begley with the assistance of a Troop L K-9, and Troop B responded to the scene.
 
While approaching a shelter located in a remote area, Sergeant Begley saw a disheveled male hiker with a grey and lime green pack holding white head phones. These were descriptions of items belonging to the possible missing female hiker. Sergeant Begley signaled the suspect to stop, but the male immediately dropped his gear and jumped off a cliff into the Housatonic River.
 
Sergeant Begley pursued the male down the cliff and apprehended him on the opposite side of the river. During the foot pursuit the male dumped a container believed to contain heroin in the river. The investigation resulted in arresting the male for Possession of Heroin and Interfering.
 
The accused was subsequently arrested for an incident involving unwanted sexual advances of teenage girls at a private school not far from his camp. It was apparent that the intervention of law enforcement and Sergeant Begley’s actions in apprehending the suspect may have been critical in preventing a serious crime from being committed.
 

EnCon Police Dispatcher Clarence Kinney
 
Clarence Kinney joined the Agency in 1987, and has been a member of the DEEP’s Emergency Dispatch Center for 30 years. Clarence has worked the bulk of his career independently on third shift.  Clarence has handled hundreds of thousands of calls for service over his career. Calls from irate and distraught individuals, dealing with boating accidents, untimely deaths, major oil and chemical releases, sick and injured wildlife and countless other critical incidents.
 
Clarence’s knowledge and ability to handle any situation makes him a truly invaluable asset to the Emergency Dispatch Center and the public he serves.  The Encon Police commend and appreciate his dedication for the past thirty years.
 

Lifesaving Award

The Lifesaving Award shall be awarded to any person saving a person’s life or making a valiant attempt to do so.

EnCon Officers Jesse Nivolo and Glenn Fergason.

On April 30, 2016, Officers Fergason and Nivolo were on patrol in the town of Westport and came upon a serious two car accident. A female occupant in one of the vehicles was severely injured. Officer Fergason assessed the female who was conscious at the time. She stated that she was having difficulty breathing and then lost consciousness. Officers Fergason and Nivolo removed the victim from the car and began rescue breathing. The officers then carried the woman to a safe area and assessed her vitals, she was not breathing and had a weak pulse.
 
At this time a Westport Officer arrived on scene to assist. Also on scene was an off duty physician who offered his assistance but was unable to find a pulse. All responding medical emergency personnel continued medical care and the victim was transported to a local hospital for further treatment. It was later learned that the woman sustained a broken neck, broken pelvis, broken leg and a chest injury requiring her to be on a ventilator.
 
Admiration for both officer’s skills under pressure in handling the female victim in a calm professional demeanor is impressive and appreciated.
 
Civilians Adam Curtin and Jacob Bernard

On June 18, 2016, the Connecticut State Environmental Conservation (EnCon) Police, Connecticut State Police, and several municipal fire departments responded to 911 calls for an overturned canoe on Cedar Lake in Chester with a report of a missing occupant. The investigation revealed that a male and female couple had been on the lake in their canoe when they capsized. Both occupants went into the water away from shore.
 
Two men, Adam Curtin and Jacob Bernard, were on the lake at the time of the incident and pulled the female boater into their vessel. They could not locate the male that was in the canoe with her. The male was later found deceased, Due to the water temperature and distance from shore, if it were not for the quick actions of Adam Curtin and Jacob Bernard, it is unlikely the female would have made it to shore.

Adam Curtin and Jacob Bernard’s heroic actions are responsible for the successful rescue of the female canoeist.
 
Civilian Jacob Picard

On July 23, 2016, a male and female were out on Lake Garda in a two-person kayak. The female was seated at the rear of the kayak and the male, Jacob Picard, was seated in front. While out on the water, about 125 feet from shore, Picard decided to jump off the kayak to swim alongside of it. At this time the female stood up in the kayak and began to paddle it like a paddleboard when suddenly she lost her balance and fell into the water.
 
The female came up to the surface of the water and was soon in distress, not able to keep her head above water. Picard helped the female victim by having her hold onto the kayak as he pulled it towards shore. While doing so Picard could see that his female companion was on the edge of consciousness, slipping her grip from the kayak and disappearing beneath the water several times. He continued to assist her and roused her to hold onto the kayak.
 
Once close to shore and able to touch bottom he pulled the female victim onto the shoreline. The female victim could not feel her feet or legs and couldn’t stand on her own. Leaving her in a safe position on shore Picard ran across the street where he notified the victim’s parents. As the girl’s father ran over to assist Picard grabbed his cellular from the house and ran back to the shoreline where they called 911 for a medical response.
 
The victim was treated at the scene and transported to the hospital for further medical treatment. It was later determined that as a result of the fall the victim suffered spinal trauma, limited movement of her legs and feet and impaired speech. Overall the victim is expected to have a full recovery.
In all probability the victim would have drowned if not for the help of Picard. Picard saved her life by keeping her head above water, quickly getting her to shore and initiating a medical emergency response.
 
Boating Officer of the Year

The Boating Enforcement Officer of the year awards is presented annually to an officer of the Division whose efforts in boating safety and boating safety enforcement are deemed to have contributed significantly to the safety of recreational boaters in Connecticut.

EnCon Officer Joseph Ruggiero

Officer Joseph Ruggiero is a twenty-two year veteran officer with the Connecticut Environmental Conservation Police. Prior to his appointment as an officer, he worked for the Agency as a dispatcher in the Emergency Dispatch Center and also served as a seasonal conservation officer for six years prior.
 
Officer Ruggiero obtained his Bachelor’s degree from Unity College in Conservation Law Enforcement.  He has conducted patrols on Connecticut’s busiest waters during that time, including most of Long Island Sound from New York to the Rhode Island border, the Connecticut and Housatonic Rivers, and many lakes, ponds and rivers in between.  Originally assigned in his earlier years to the Western Marine sector serving some of the state’s most active boating harbors, Officer Ruggiero now patrols most of Southeastern Connecticut, including a very busy lower Connecticut River.  His dedication to conservation law enforcement and the public’s boating safety continues to be outstanding.
 
Officer Ruggiero’s commitment to his primary patrol area and the safety and enjoyment of the boaters and fishermen of the lower Connecticut River valley and its adjacent waterbodies continues to be unwavering.  In 2016, as in previous years, Officer Ruggiero continued to conduct vessel patrols as often as possible on busy weekends, addressing enforcement issues at two very busy state boat launches and several adjacent wake zones. 
 
He always ensures the readiness of the local patrol vessel for all officers during the boating season, and maintains a good working relationship with the marina owner and members where the vessel is stationed.  Officer Ruggiero works very effectively with local and State Police units on and along the river, ensuring coordination of response to boating enforcement and SAR incidents.  He participates frequently in annual Operation Dry Water initiatives, including a successful media event in June 2016.  Officer Ruggiero issued 42 citations for various boating violations, and was the primary investigator for two serious boating accidents, one of which involved a capsized kayak fatality.

When on vessel patrol, Officer Ruggiero remains focused on all forms of vessel safety and safe operation.  His area of the river includes a popular boat launch and sandbar area that sees swimmers, park patrons and boaters all interacting in a small, congested area.  His frequent interactions and enforcement of boating safety regulations, particularly no wake speeds and safe personal watercraft (PWC) operation by properly certified boaters in this area have no doubt prevented potentially tragic accidents, and has enhanced the safety and enjoyment of boating and our waterways by the public.  His dedication, enthusiasm, professionalism and cooperation with other agencies make him a worthy recipient of the Boating Officer of the Year Award.
 
Shikar-Safari Officer of the Year Award

The Shikar-Safari Club International, an organization that promotes wildlife conservation and protection, sponsors the Shikar-Safari Officer of the Year Award.  The award recognizes and honors officers who have shown exemplary performance of their duties in the protection of wildlife, enforcement of game laws and implementation of conservation programs.
 
EnCon Officer Erin Flockhart

Officer Flockhart joined the Connecticut Environmental Conservation Police Division in October of 2005, and throughout her career has been assigned to the Western District.
 
Over the past year Officer Flockhart’s case load in the Northwest sector has been extremely diverse, and her professionalism and dedication in each investigation and to the Division is commendable.
 
Serious motor vehicle accident:
 
Officer Flockhart was the first law enforcement officer on scene at a serious motor vehicle accident in the town of Burlington on December 3, 2015. She immediately requested additional emergency service units. She observed a large dump truck on its side, whose occupants were out of the vehicle and appeared unharmed. Officer Flockhart immediately turned her attention to the second vehicle, a Jeep and observed that the operator was obviously deceased, and that two adult females and an injured child were also in the vehicle.
 
The four-year-old child who was sitting behind the operator had a large laceration on his face and was bleeding. After quickly accessing the child’s injuries, Officer Flockhart pulled him out the window of the Jeep, placed him in her patrol vehicle, and rendered first aid.  As other emergency responders had arrived, Officer Flockhart stayed with the child in the ambulance until he was transported. She was able to keep the child calm and distracted from the horrific scene.
 
Officer Flockhart provided invaluable assistance to the Connecticut State Police investigators by securing key witnesses, protecting the scene, and obtaining witness statements. Her quick thinking, immediate action, compassion and professionalism was recognized by all law enforcement agencies involved. Officer Flockhart received the Division’s Medal for Outstanding Service/Achievement for her response to the incident.
 
Hunting Enforcement:
 
While patrolling in the town of Kent, off River Road and National Park Service Property, on December 8, 2015, Officer Flockhart observed a vehicle parked suspiciously. She and her K-9 partner, tracked from the vehicle into the adjacent wood line, and K-9 Ellie tracked up to an individual who was carrying an unloaded shotgun. She and Ellie then performed a search of the area for evidence and located two shotgun shells that were consistent with what was on the noted individual’s person. The individual, a convicted felon, later admitted to throwing out the shotgun shells that were in his weapon when he heard officers approaching. The individual was arrested and charged with Criminal Possession of a firearm, Criminal Trespass in the third degree, Negligent Hunting in the third degree, Negligent Hunting in the fourth degree, Hunting without 400 square inches of orange, and Deer hunting with 00 buck. The individual was indicted in federal court for these charges.
 
While on patrol in the town of Cornwall, on December 9, 2015, Officer Flockhart observed an individual kneeling on the ground, attempting to unload the crossbow in his possession.  The noted individual did not have permission to be on the property and did not have a hunting license.  The individual stated that he was “holding the bow for his friend” who was still in the woods.  The second individual, a convicted felon, then exited the woods without a weapon.  Officer Flockhart and K-9 Ellie conducted a search of the area. The convicted felon later admitted to hunting with a crossbow. The individual was subsequently arrested and charged with Illegal Deer Hunting.
 
Officer Flockhart was contacted by Officer Yescott to assist with a complaint of an individual illegally hunting private property on December 9, 2015 in Litchfield.  Officer Yescott had observed a truck in the area, which he believed belonged to the illegal hunter.  Officer Flockhart and her K-9 performed a track off the truck and tracked to a blind in the woods where they found the truck owner hunting.  The individual also had marijuana on his person, and was cited for hunting violations.
 
Officer Flockhart conducted a lengthy illegal deer hunting investigation on the Kent Land Trust Property, by an individual with several aliases and a lengthy criminal history.  The investigation included the use of Social Media, video recordings, and networking with local police departments. The investigation concluded with Off. Flockhart obtaining an arrest warrant for the New York resident, for the charges of Hunting Deer on Private Land without Permission , Negligent Hunting in the Third Degree, Hunting without a License, Hunting without Wearing Orange, and Criminal Trespass in the Second Degree.
 
Officer Flockhart is a member of the Division’s K-9 Unit as well as being a member of the CSP   K-9 SAR team. Over the past year she and her K-9 partner responded to over fifteen calls for service, with the majority being for missing persons and suicidal individuals.  The most noteworthy case consisted of her assistance with the SAR efforts for the Major Crime Unit’s investigation of the missing Easton couple, whose bodies were ultimately recovered.
 
Officer Flockhart is an extremely well rounded, competent, and valued member of the District as well as the Division, and has earned this nomination of Western District Officer of the Year 2016.