Editors Note: Deming Lindsley is the NYSDEC Division of Law Enforcement’s most senior officer. He is the resident expert on the Fish and Wildlife Law and has been the primary instructor for that course in the Division’s Training Academy for decades. He also teaches the complexities of the Fish and Wildlife Law to other enforcement agencies and college students. Deming is known far and wide for his engaging personality and sense of humor. He has worn his uniform with pride for 39 years and is still dedicated to his calling as and Environmental Conservation Officer. Here is Deming’s description of the beginning of his distinguished career:
I was under my 1961 ford sedan, trying to replace the muffler, when Dad’s State car pulled into the driveway. Out of the passenger side, my mom jumped out and hollered to me that I was an Environmental Conservation Officer. Looking back she was more excited than I was at the time…it hadn’t sunk in yet.
The first official word I got was a letter addressed to me from the New Paltz DEC office. I eagerly opened it, to find the only content was a pass day schedule for the officers of the Region, and my name was on it!!!!! I figured that was a good sign. My first day on the job, was to be December 14, 1972, and it was listed as my pass day. Well, I worked it anyway.
My dad, ECO Burton Lindsley, brought me to the New Paltz office, bright and early, where I met Capt. George O’Dell. He was in civilian clothes. I found out we didn’t have a desk ECO or dispatcher. The Lieutenants weren’t even required to be in the office since everything was done through the US mail, to your Lt’s home office address. There were two secretaries and the radio was behind the captain’s desk, where he provided any and all dispatching that was needed, which wasn’t much.
Then I met Lt. Harry Saglibene, also in civies, who took me and Ken Zalesky, another “new-be” to 50 wolf Rd., our Albany headquarters. There we met Lt. Collin Bursey, our quartermaster. We loaded up with everything a 1970’s ECO should need. A 6” .38 caliber colt revolver in a long swivel holster, brief case, (which Dad later complained to me about since they never gave him one), snow shoes, and a bunch of 100% wool winter uniforms. The summer uniform was green pants with the black stripe, and a brown cotton long sleeve shirt, to be worn with the tie. Lt. Bursey found an old badge, put it in a new badge holder, and advised me I would be receiving my state ID in a couple of weeks. He rounded off things with a Stetson and a seal skin hat left over form the 1960’s. He told me to wear my Stetson a little cocked off to one side since we were an elite group of men. Remember, only men, and, they had to be at least 5’9” tall or they didn’t make it.
We drove back to New Paltz, where the Captain gave me the keys to my first cruiser, a 1970, 383 Dodge Fury III, green and white with a single bubble bolted to the roof. No air-conditioner, hand crank windows, and no AM/FM radio. The State Seal was on the door and the words “Conservation Officer” was across the trunk in large reflective lettering. Within one week, I went to the local hardware store, bought some green spray paint and sprayed over the reflective writing on the trunk. Nobody cared!!
The Captain gave me the call sign of 341, and said I would have to learn the “10 Code”, because that was the communication we used on the old tube fired radio that only had one channel – ours. No State Police, no Sheriff, no scanning, nothing. 911 wasn’t invented yet. After the office closed, it was you and any other ECO cruiser out there that could hear you. They were your back-up, but they were probably in another county. Oh, did I mentioned, no cell phones either? We did have prayer and our own wits, and I relied on them both.
Capt. O’Dell told me to ride with ECO Bill Wilby, a neighboring officer who used to cover my new patrol sector. He would show me my newly-assigned patrol area, which encompassed the towns of Chester, Monroe, Warwick, and Tuxedo all in Orange County. I was the only ECO assigned to these four townships, and was told to meet my judges and any police agencies in the area. Now, I spent two days with Bill and learned where every eating place was and when they had an “all you can eat” day on the menu. He did take me to Greenwood Lake which was six miles long, three in New Jersey and three in New York, with special fishing regulations. He explained to me I should do pretty good there because he had “been leaving it to seed”- he hadn’t worked it in the past five years! I did pretty good there…….
The paper work was taught by my Dad, at his kitchen table. (I met my Lieutenant after I was working for about two weeks, and only spent one day with him in the next three months.) An appearance ticket was issued for each case where you didn’t take the defendant for an immediate arraignment. No such a thing as mail-in guilty pleas. The defendant would have to appear in court along with the ECO. The Officer had to provide a long form information for each case, and then fill out the “Protectors Report” for each disposition. Oh, by the way, if any case was dismissed, you never got any credit for it. Only the cases that the defendant was found guilty, or they pled guilty were counted.
I was now on my own. Couldn’t get a lot of my young inquisitive questions answered, other than “that’s the way we always did it”. So, I started reading the Fish & Wildlife Law. Read it from cover to cover, and then read it again, year after year. Now after years of working with the Fish & Wildlife Law, I still find it rather confusing.
One half of the State’s force of ECOs went to the first four-week long in-service school held at the NYS Police Academy, in 1972, taught primarily by the then Division counsel, Mel Coutant. The second half of the force, me included, went to the second four-week session in March 1973. Every one who came on after that 1973 session was required to attend our newly formed ECO training academy.
Well, 39 years has gone by fast, very fast. Only thing I can say is “Wow, what a ride”. Wish I could do it all over again.