The state Fish and Boat Commission is looking for men and women willing to dedicate themselves to the protection and conservation of the Commonwealth’s waters as recruitment begins for a new class of Waterways Conservation Officers (WCO).

Following in an over 150-year tradition, the 22nd class of WCO trainees will begin training this summer and will graduate in the summer of 2020.

“It’s been since about 2016 that the last class graduated,” said Capt. Anthony Quarracino of the Fish and Boat Commission’s southcentral region. “We have a class about every two to three years.”

The timing of the classes depends on the staffing needs of the commission and varies accordingly.

“We try to recruit a class depending on vacancies, retirement and promotions, when we need to increase our complement of officers,” Quarracino said. “There has been some longer spans between classes and this seems like one of the longer ones.”

WCOs are police officers certified by the State Police Municipal Police Officers Training Standards. Employed by the Fish and Boat Commission, they are trained in all aspects of fisheries conservation and watercraft safety. The officers are responsible for enforcement of fishing, boating and environmental laws and regulations. Patrols are accomplished by foot, by vehicle and by boat. They are also certified boating safety instructors.

The first step for those interested in becoming a WCO is to submit an application to the State Civil Service Commission under the title “Waterways Conservation Officer Trainees” by Tuesday, Feb. 19.

“The Civil Service Test is done first and foremost,” he said.

Applicants must meet state residency requirement, be a high school graduate or have equivalent certification (or an equivalent combination of experience and training), be in possession of a valid Pennsylvania driver’s license, be at least 21 years of age by the date of hiring, pass a test to meet the Minimum Experience and Training Requirements, meet minimum physical and reading ability standards established by the Training Municipal Police Officers’ Education Act for entrance into the Act 120 Training Program, be able to perform the essential job functions and will be required to pass a drug test. Background checks and physical examinations will also be conducted. Applicants must also be able to swim continuously for 10 minutes or 250 yards. Officers are required to wear a uniform and carry a firearm while on duty.

The class will include up to 20 trainees, who will undergo about 20 weeks of training in law enforcement principles and practices and an additional 32 weeks of training at the H. R. Stackhouse School of Fishery Conservation and Watercraft Safety in Bellefonte.

“While you are in school, you are considered a trainee and will complete a year’s worth of field training and classroom work on law enforcement, fish and boat laws, watercraft safety and environmental protection,” said Quarracino. “Once you complete the program successfully, you are promoted to Waterways Conservation Officer and assigned to a patrol district, where you will actively enforce the fishing, boating, watercraft safety and wildlife laws of the Commonwealth.”

April can be reached at afeagley@huntingdondailynews.com.

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