Nominees demonstrate exceptional efforts to keep people safe on public waters
SPRINGFIELD, IL – Several Illinois Conservation Police officers were honored today for their outstanding efforts in protecting the public throughout the 2012 calendar year. Among those receiving recognition were five officers who helped keep boaters and other recreational water users safe, including officer (CPO) Don Schachner, who was named Illinois Conservation Police Officer of the Year.
CPO Schachner, a resident of New Athens, is based in Monroe County in southwest Illinois, part of IDNR Region IV.
“Conservation Police officers are the best trained police officers in the state – helping ensure public safety, boating safety, enforcing fish and wildlife, traffic, drug and environmental laws, and serving on the front-line in disaster relief and rescue efforts year round in Illinois,” said IDNR Conservation Police Director Rafael Gutierrez. “Officer Schachner displays a high level of professionalism and commitment to protecting all of us who enjoy the outdoor wonders of Illinois, and the Officer of the Year honor is well-earned.”
CPO Schachner has served as a Conservation Police officer since 2000. In 2012, he arrested five subjects for operating under the influence (OUI), four subjects for taking wild turkeys without a permit, four subjects for felony resource theft, and assisted in the apprehension of a subject taking artifacts within the Shawnee National Forest. Generating 598 contacts and 41 field reports during 2012, CPO Schachner led his district in enforcement activity.
Illinois Conservation Police Officer of the Year award winners are selected based on a variety of factors, including job knowledge, skills and judgment; dedication and professionalism in investigation and follow-through on cases; and, cooperation with other officers, agencies and constituency groups.
Other nominees for the Officer of the Year honor included:
Region I CPO Tony Petreikis – Western Illinois
CPO Petreikis began his Conservation Police career in Will County in 1994, transferring to Rock Island County in 2004. CPO Petreikis’ enforcement activity last year included five arrests for watercraft operating under the influence (OUI), and one driving under the influence (DUI) arrest, among more than 170 citations written during the year. His 2012 investigations resulted in nine felony charges (seven convictions and two cases still pending), and fines levied in his mandatory court appearance cases total more than $30,500.
Region II CPO Holly Vadbunker - Northern Illinois
CPO Vadbunker – based in Kankakee County – is busy throughout the year with area residents and visitors from Chicagoland enjoying boating, fishing, hunting, camping and other outdoor activities. During 2012, CPO Vadbunker issued 60 citations for boating violations, more than 160 for fish and game violations, more than 225 violations at IDNR state parks and other sites, 167 Illinois Vehicle Code violations, 47 drug cases, two DUIs and one OUI arrest. CPO Vadbunker also spent time with fellow officers on complex wildlife poaching cases and investigated multiple cases in northeast Illinois with her (now retired) K9 partner Leo. Leo is also receiving a Certificate of Appreciation for his exemplary drug detection and tracking skills over his nine year career with the Illinois Conservation Police.
Region III CPO Dan Greuel – East Central Illinois
CPO Greuel is based in east-central Illinois. Nominators noted CPO Greuel’s emphasis on boat safety enforcement, making nine OUI arrests in 2012 – the most by any IDNR Conservation Police officer last year. CPO Greuel also issued 36 boating citations and made 13 drug arrests.
Region V CPO Steve Vasicek – Southern Illinois
CPO Vasicek is a 12-year veteran of IDNR and is assigned to Union County in southern Illinois. CPO Vasicek had a total of 452 public contacts in 2012, well above the average for his region, including writing 238 citations and assisting in 43 arrests. CPO Vasicek is well-known among fellow officers for self-initiating wildlife, timber, and fishing violations, and for working closely with the local sheriff, police agencies and the state’s attorney in follow up on violation cases in a part of the state with plentiful recreation opportunities.
“While our officers are busy throughout the year enforcing the law and helping keep all of our citizens and outdoor recreation enthusiasts safe, the very busy summer recreation season is upon us,” Chief Gutierrez said. “With the Fourth of July holiday approaching and thousands of Illinoisans and visitors to our state enjoying summertime activities, it is a good time to remind boaters, hikers, bikers, campers and everyone to play by the rules and stay safe.”
Illinois Conservation Police will be increasing enforcement on public lakes and rivers over the 4th of July holiday period looking for impaired boaters. During last year’s 4th of July holiday enforcement period, Conservation Police issued over 450 citations to boaters on public waters.
The IDNR Conservation Police awards ceremony was conducted at the IDNR headquarters in Springfield on June 26.