DNR Honors 2012 Law Enforcement Officers of the Year

Pfc. Brian M. Welch of Gray Court was awarded the title of statewide S.C. Department of Natural Resources (DNR) wildlife officer of the year for 2012 during ceremonies held Sept. 21 in Columbia. Four other officers were also honored for their dedication in protecting the state’s natural resources through enforcement, education, special investigations, intelligence and records and staff operations.

Among Pfc. Welch’s many accomplishments over the last year included being the leading officer in his region with total contacts over 900 for the year. His cases have included: 16 cases and 19 warnings for turkey violations (leading the state), of which 12 cases were hunting turkey over bait. He made three night-hunting charges as well as small game out of season charges on individuals using an AK-47, a stolen 12-gauge shotgun, and a 30.30 to shoot rabbits.

“Pfc. Welch is the embodiment of high caliber teamwork,” said DNR Law Enforcement Col. Chisolm Frampton. “His exemplary work ethic serves as a beacon for other officers only outshone by honorable character and an easygoing demeanor.”

The annual officer of the year awards and banquet are dedicated to the late Chief R.M. “Bobby” Gifford, highly regarded chief of natural resources law enforcement for many years. The S.C. Wildlife Officers’ Association, the Harry Hampton Memorial Wildlife Fund, the family of Chief Gifford and DNR together honored the state’s top officers.

The following were selected as outstanding DNR officers for 2012 from each of the state’s four Natural Resources Enforcement Regions and Marine Law Enforcement Investigations and Education and Staff Operations. The statewide honor of Officer of the Year was chosen from these candidates:

  • Region 1 (Anderson, Abbeville, McCormick, Edgefield, Greenwood, Laurens, Union, Cherokee, Greenville, Oconee, Pickens and Spartanburg counties): Pfc. Brian M. Welch
  • Region 2 (York, Chester, Fairfield, Lancaster, Kershaw, Chesterfield, Lee, Darlington, Marlboro, Dillon, Florence, Marion and Williamsburg counties): Officer Ezra Arnold
  • Region 3 (Newberry, Saluda, Aiken, Allendale, Bamberg, Barnwell, Lexington, Richland, Sumter, Calhoun, Orangeburg and Clarendon counties): Sgt. Rhett Bickley
  • Region 4 & NASBLA (Horry, Georgetown, Berkeley, Hampton, Charleston, Beaufort, Colleton, Dorchester and Jasper counties): Sgt. Steven C. Pop
  • Law Enforcement Investigations & Education: Investigator Ray Lewis

DNR Officers of the Year, including the statewide title, were selected by a committee of key DNR law enforcement personnel and captains and rated in six categories: employment history; enforcement activities and specialties; awards, achievements and accomplishments; leadership, teamwork and attitude; family and community involvement; and outstanding cases.

Top men and women from across the state are chosen as DNR Officers of the Year because of their exceptional abilities in natural resources enforcement. Before assuming their duties, new officers must complete an eight-week course at the Criminal Justice Academy plus an additional five weeks of intensive DNR field training.

South Carolina’s Natural Resources Law Enforcement officers serve and protect the state’s natural resources by patrolling more than 31,000 square miles of the state’s lands and inland waters. Officers also patrol 750 miles of tidal shoreline and marine waters, to the state’s territorial boundary three miles offshore and beyond on special federal assignments.

Throughout the state’s 46 counties, DNR officers enforce laws and regulations pertaining to more than 450,000 registered boats, and a half-million licensed hunters and anglers and the multi-million dollar coastal fishing industry. Officers enforce Wildlife Management Area regulations and statewide litter laws, instruct hunter and boating education, conduct statewide search and rescue operations and perform community service.