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DWR Conservation Police Presents 2023 Awards

By Molly Kirk/DWR

Photos by Meghan Marchetti/DWR

In a ceremony on March 20, the Virginia Department of Wildlife Resources (DWR) Conservation Police presented their 2023 awards, recognizing exceptional efforts from Conservation Police Officers across the state. The awards included:


Master Officer William Jason Harris

Master Officer Harris exemplifies excellence and dedication in his role within the agency, particularly in promoting teamwork, public outreach, and innovation, as well as displaying a positive attitude and leadership. He has initiated and led various projects to improve boating safety and enhance environmental protection in his area, resulting in significant community engagement and positive outcomes. Additionally, he organizes and participates in numerous free programs and events to benefit underrepresented populations and promote outdoor activities. Master Officer Harris is proactive in seeking out and addressing illegal activities, utilizing technology and forming relationships to enhance enforcement efforts. He played a crucial role in locating homicide victims and spearheaded specialized training on Side-Scan Sonar, demonstrating his commitment to innovation and knowledge-sharing within the agency. Master Officer Harris consistently demonstrates leadership skills and provides expert guidance and assistance to his colleagues.

His achievements and accomplishments are numerous, including receiving recognition for outstanding leadership, professionalism, and excellence, as well as multiple commendations.  He serves as a mentor and model employee in various capacities within the agency, further showcasing his dedication and impact and earning him the distinction of CPO of the Year 2023.

A photo of five men standing on a stage, with the man in the center in Conservation Police uniform and holding a plaque.

CPO Adam Roberts (center) received the Boating Officer of the Year award from (from left) DWR Chairman of the Board Tom Sadler, Virginia Secretary of Natural and Historic Resources Travis Voyles, DWR Executive Director Ryan Brown, and Colonel John Cobb.


Officer First Class Adam Roberts

Conservation Police Officer First Class Adam Roberts is a highly valued member of the agency, known for his unwavering commitment to teamwork and public service.  CPO Roberts is dedicated to promoting the agency’s mission, exemplified by his involvement in various outreach events and boating safety initiatives.  His professionalism and dedication shine through in his role as a field training officer, where he invests significant time in preparing new officers for success.

Additionally, CPO Roberts demonstrates exceptional investigative skills, as seen in his handling of various boating incidents, including a tragic double fatality and a collision resulting in serious injuries during Operation Dry Water weekend. Despite the unfortunate distinction of responding to numerous incidents, he is recognized for his extraordinary efforts with awards and accolades, including the 2023 Operation Dry Water Officer of the Year award. Overall, CPO Roberts’s self-effacing nature belies his remarkable dedication and exceptional contributions to the agency, making him a standout member and a role model for his colleagues and deserving of the title 2023 Virginia Boating Officer of the Year.


Senior K-9 Officer Bonnie Braziel

Conservation Police Officer Canine Handler Bonnie Braziel has shown her dedication to teamwork, having assisted CPOs with hundreds of calls for service and K9 deployments throughout the state and at district and local outreach events. CPO Braziel’s enforcement, training and outreach efforts are beyond compare. CPO Braziel and her K9 partner Grace participated in numerous public outreach events reaching elementary, high school, and college students as well as countless others attending public events. She also assisted with instruction for West Virginia Department of Natural Resources Inaugural Canine Unit. Her efforts and those of Grace cross many boundaries for the benefit of others. CPO Braziel has honed a specific skill set and shared her knowledge with the rest of the canine unit which has enhanced the effectiveness of the entire team. CPO Braziel brings positive recognition to agency efforts on a state and national level.


Andrea Frisby

Communications Officer Frisby is a highly motivated, proactive, reliable, and professional dispatcher who is invaluable to the agency. This past year, Andrea attended the Association of Public Safety Communications Officials Winter Summit where she discussed and brought back information to the dispatch center concerning CAD software, translation services, VCU Life Evac, Next Gen 911, and Mental Health. She strives to continually gain knowledge and expertise that is then used to better the agency.

CO Frisby is an expert at handling officer complaints and resolving caller hostility while still obtaining all necessary and vital information. Andi completed training to become a Communications Training Officer and excels in that role while also filling in as a backup training officer when staffing levels are low. On many occasions supervision has tasked her with assuming the role of a Senior Communications Officer, which she has handled with responsibility and tact. Her attitude towards the additional roles and responsibilities she has assumed has been exemplary. CO Frisby’s consistent work ethic and passion for her career is obvious in her diligence and attention to detail. She deeply cares about the CPOs she so selflessly helps keep safe through her outstanding work as a communications officer.


First Sergeant Steve Ferguson

First Sergeant Steve Ferguson is the recipient of the Colonel’s Leadership Award due to his exceptional career as a Game Warden/Conservation Police Officer and his outstanding leadership qualities. Joining the law enforcement division in February 1994, he has held various roles, including District Sergeant since May 2009 and First Sergeant since August 2022.

Throughout his tenure, Ferguson has demonstrated remarkable leadership, actively participating in committees addressing crucial issues such as telephone checking system development, small game regulation, and career development. He has also contributed significantly as an instructor, shaping the next generation of officers through teaching general law classes and serving as a lead driving instructor. First Sgt. Ferguson’s commitment to research and fiscal responsibility is highlighted by his efforts in saving the agency thousands of dollars through meticulous research on vehicle recalls and warranties. His voluntary participation in leadership development programs and subsequent role as an instructor and steering committee member exemplifies his dedication to developing future leaders within the division. Throughout his career, First Sgt. Ferguson has consistently led by example, demonstrating unwavering integrity and professionalism, earning him the respect and admiration of his peers and the entire agency.


Master Officer Ray Solomon

Master Conservation Police Officer Ray Solomon has served the Department of Wildlife Resources diligently for over 36 years, exhibiting innovation, expertise in investigative practices, and a commitment to excellence in wildlife law enforcement. He has been recognized for his professionalism and dedication to best practices, receiving the Law Enforcement Officer of the Year award for Frederick County in 2013.

Solomon is regarded as an expert in firearms and bullet ballistics, frequently providing invaluable insights in identifying firearms, offering expert testimony in court cases, and assisting in the development of local ordinances related to firearm discharge. His meticulous investigative skills have been instrumental in resolving numerous hunting-related cases, including high-profile ones such as the Valles Caldera case and Operation VIPER. Furthermore, Solomon possesses a unique ability to establish rapport with a diverse range of individuals, from community leaders to hardened felons, ensuring fair and safe outcomes in various law enforcement situations. For his unwavering commitment to professionalism, dedication to improving law division operations, and exemplary service to the DWR mission, Solomon is deserving of the O.P.S. Professionalism Decree.


Master Officer Owen Heine

Master Conservation Police Officer Owen Heine has demonstrated exemplary service to the law enforcement division during his over 20 years as a Game Warden/Conservation Police Officer. He is recognized for his investigative prowess, often employing unconventional tactics to apprehend offenders. Heine plays a crucial role in the training division, serving as the lead Officer survival instructor and a certified defensive tactics instructor. He has also spearheaded the TIP411 program to enhance communication with constituents regarding natural resource violations, showing initiative by researching similar programs out of state.

Additionally, Heine contributes to the agency as a background investigator for prospective CPO recruits, an original member of the Region 4 tracking team, a certified drone pilot, and a field training officer. Heine’s dedication extends beyond enforcement duties; he actively engages with the community by participating in hunter education classes, providing career talks, and initiating the “trout stream clean-up” program, which has significantly enhanced trout stream access for constituents in Shenandoah County. Heine’s exceptional contributions make him a true steward for Virginia’s wildlife and natural resources.


 Sergeant Richard Tyler Bumgarner

The Lifesaving Medal is presented to Sergeant Richard Tyler Bumgarner for his actions taken on May 15, 2023. On that day, Sgt. Bumgarner was on patrol and observed an individual administering CPR to a subject that was lying unconscious on the ground. Sgt. Bumgarner stopped to provide assistance and was notified that the incapacitated subject had overdosed on narcotics. Sgt. Bumgarner provided one application of NARCAN and attached AED pads to the subject. After a second dose of NARCAN, the subject became conscious and was thereafter transported by medical personnel to a local hospital. Care rendered by Sgt. Bumgarner contributed to the subject surviving the incident.


Lieutenant Jessica Fariss

The Lifesaving Medal is presented to Lieutenant Jessica Fariss for her actions taken on December 8, 2023. On that day, Lt. Fariss was off-duty and taking her first harvested bear to a check station. Upon arrival, Lt. Fariss heard people screaming and was informed that an individual had overdosed. Lt. Fariss coordinated with Master Officer Gavin Fariss, who began to respond and notified DWR Dispatch to contact local EMS. Lt. Farris then learned the individual had stopped breathing and immediately took over the administration of CPR, providing chest compressions and giving instructions on rescue breaths. After several sets of compressions, the individual had a pulse but was struggling to breathe. Shortly thereafter, local EMS responded and administered NARCAN, reviving the patient. Care rendered by Lt. Fariss contributed to the subject surviving the incident.


Game Warden Forrest Hanks

The Medal of Valor is posthumously presented to Game Warden Forrest Hanks for his actions taken on November 21, 1970. On that day, G.W. Hanks responded to a hostage situation involving an ex-convict parolee from Ohio who was in the midst of a multi-state crime spree that included abduction at gunpoint, armed robbery, and attempted murder of a police officer.  The perpetrator was holding a Mrs. Dorothy Ayers hostage in the mountains of Alleghany County, and G.W. Hanks was personally requested by the Sheriff for help. G.W. Hanks led the pursuit up the mountains and was able to neutralize the armed convict with a precise rifle shot and save the life of Dorothy Ayers.

  • March 25, 2024