An investigation conducted by the Ohio Inspector General’s Office revealed 18 wildlife officers were sport hunting white tailed deer while they were on the clock, but law enforcement is now backing them.
The investigation into wildlife officers hunting on duty began last May and was prompted by the criminal prosecution and conviction of a wildlife officer and a wildlife supervisor who were photographed in uniform with a group of hunters while their time sheets indicated they were on duty at the time last year.
Their cases raised suspicions that it wasn’t an isolated incident, and the OIG requested records of all deer harvested for the 2009-2010 deer hunting seasons and compared them to time sheets.
The Inspector General found in comparing deer harvest and payroll records that officers from the Ohio Department of Natural Resources (ODNR) had hunted while they were on the job or were off duty when their deer harvests were recorded and therefore falsified payroll records to collect pay for hours not worked, according to the San Francisco Chronicle.
The report, which was given to prosecuting attorneys, concluded that a “lack of accountability and supervision along with failure of wildlife officers’ compliance with the communication policy” was not only a legal issue but a safety concern.
The 18 officers face criminal prosecution and were placed on administrative duty, also losing their law enforcement powers while an internal investigation is conducted.
Now the Fraternal Order of Police is backing them and claims bad timekeeping was to blame, stating the agency didn’t believe there was a criminal intent to defraud. According to the Columbus Dispatch, the officers were instructed to falsify their time sheets to avoid overtime.
Either way, something’s off in Ohio and elsewhere when it comes to the accountability of our taxpayer funded wildlife assassins. Conservationists are also fighting against the secretive killers at Wildlife Services, which kills 1.5 million animals year with little oversight or disclosure and is believed to have killed more than 22 million native animals since 1996, across 476 different species.
This month the Center for Biological Diversity, Project Coyote and the Animal Welfare Institute, with support from the Animal Legal Defense Fund, petitioned the Obama administration to clean the agency up.
According to the petitioners, agents routinely engage in illegal and inhumane activities with no consequences, in addition to regularly covering up animal deaths. Agents have been found to torture wildlife, kill endangered species and harm people’s pets, yet the agency continues to operate with impunity.
Concerns about the agency mounted last year when agent Jamie Olson posted photographs on Facebook showing his dogs attacking a coyote caught in a trap and were compounded when Wildlife Services trapper Russell Files was arrested in Arizona for intentionally snaring a neighbor’s dog in a steel leghold trap.
Hopefully the growing awareness and concern about what our taxpayer-funded wildlife officials are up to will lead to greater transparency and policies that are based in science, not the interests of hunters and ranchers.
ODNR Deputy Director Rick Corbin told The Dispatch changes have already been made in this case to make sure this doesn’t happen again.
Photo credit: Thinkstock