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New DEP police trained to protect city’s water supply

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The first graduates of the city Department of Environmental Protection’s Environmental Police Academy, the only one of its kind in the country, got their certificates last month and will help protect Queens’ water supply from future terrorist and pollution threats.

The new officers on the force, which was founded in 1906 and whose jurisdiction includes the 23 reservoirs and lakes and 19 dams covering 2,000 square miles in the New York City watershed, will protect the various assets in Queens, said Ed Welch, chief of police for the city Department of Environmental Protection Police.

“Our department will virtually double in size this July,” Welch said. “We feel the graduates are now better armed to understand the threats that are involved in protecting such a large area.”

Welch said the DEP used to contract out its training of cadets but decided last year to instead use in-house scientists, engineers, ex-NYPD officers and facilities. He said the graduates undergo the same 510 hours of training as other police officers but instead have 320 of those hours dedicated to environmental protection.

Welch said the graduates went through 20 weeks of intense training in environmental law and police administration, which included basic police training in laws of arrest, use of force, justification, firearms, defensive tactics, terrorism and police science. The supplementary environmental courses involved classes in lands and forests, fish and wildlife, stream protection and fresh water wetlands.

“We’re working at enhancing one’s stature through both professionalism and giving him or her a sense of pride and mission,” said Welch, who was appointed by DEP Commissioner Christopher Ward. “This is a unique agency.”

Welch said the DEP police partner with other municipal police agencies throughout the state. He said the DEP has numerous sites in Queens that the new graduates will oversee and help protect in the event of future threats.

Ward, speaking during the graduation Feb. 20 at Ulster County Community College, said the graduates’ course work in advanced police tactics and practice with state-of-the-art equipment would help to contain criminal activity and preserve the integrity of the state’s water system and environment.

“You are in the unique position of being the first law-enforcement officers to experience this intense training in environmental law enforcement and protection,” he said. “You are on the front line of our efforts to protect our watersheds.”

Welch said the interaction between the NYPD and DEP will help secure Queens and the surrounding areas because there will be intelligence-sharing and continued operation to address any threats to the borough’s water supply.

Reach reporter Alex Davidson by e-mail at TimesLedger@aol.com or by phone at 718-229-0300, Ext. 156.

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