State Senate Bill Would Add Natural Resources Police Officers

ANNAPOLIS-- A bill that  attempts to increase staffing levels in the Natural Resources Police department is ready for a final vote in the Senate.

Sen. Roy Dyson, D-St. Mary's, is the sponsor of SB937, which would mandate that the state employ at least 435 Natural Resources officers by 2021. The force is currently down to an allocation of 247 officers from 440 in 1990.

This comes in the wake of a nearly-13 ton rockfish poaching discovery by Natural Resources police officers this year, beginning on Feb. 1. The fish were discovered in illegally anchored gill nets on the bottom of the Chesapeake Bay near Kent Island.

Officers sometimes worked 18-hour days during that month, hauling in boatloads full of the illegally caught fish. The fish were sold and the money has been saved for future Department of Natural Resources purchases.

Natural Resources officers are responsible for policing 17,000 miles of shoreline, including tributaries, along with patrolling public lands.  They also enforce maritime homeland security.

Officers responded to 20,394 service calls in 2010, up nearly 39 percent from 2001.

The department had 33 officer positions cut from the fiscal 2011 budget.

By Capital News Service's Kerry Davis.