It’s well known in Jackie Glaser’s home that mom has a gun. More than one, in fact. ¶ But as a Minnesota Department of Natural Resources conservation officer (CO), she knows when it’s appropriate to strap on her sidearm. And when it’s better to leave her .40-caliber Glock locked away. ¶ “A conservation officer’s job is flexible,’’ Glaser said. “So if one of my kids is going on a field trip or has a hockey game, and I want to go, I can come home, change out of my uniform, go to the field trip or game, then come home again, change back into my uniform and head back on patrol.’’ ¶ Glaser, who is an acting CO supervisor in the west metro, in addition to her regular conservation officer duties, is one of about 17 women officers out of a statewide force of more than 200. She would like more women to patrol the state’s woods, waters and fields. But in some cases, the job can be a hard sell.
“Part of it is getting the word out to women, to assure them that, yes, they can do this job,’’ Glaser said. “But in many ways it’s a demanding job, and not one in which you work 8 to 4 every day. So if that’s what you’re looking for, this isn’t it.
“Also, if you’re not comfortable working alone, say checking hunters at night, you might not like this type of work.’’
A St. Cloud State University graduate, with a degree in criminal justice, and with a law enforcement certificate from a community college, Glaser has been a DNR conservation officer for 13 years.
In addition to her supervisory duties, and her qualification as a background investigator of prospective COs, she’s one of two officers charged with patrolling Lake Minnetonka, on which she makes more BWI — boating while intoxicated — arrests than any other conservation officer in the state.
“That’s not the most common violation I encounter — that would be not having a hunting or fishing license,’’ she said. “But boating while intoxicated is huge. On a summer Saturday afternoon on Lake Minnetonka, there might be a couple hundred boats hooked together, with a lot of drinking going on.
“If they’re anchored, drivers of the boats can drink as much as they want. But about dinnertime or right before sunset, too many of them want to get off the water. It’s then, if I suspect someone has had too much to drink, I make the stop.
“I give four field sobriety tests. If they flunk, I arrest them, put a life jacket on them and take them to the sheriff’s station.’’
Story of a career
Lisa Kruse has been a conservation officer 15 years and is assigned to the north metro. Like Glaser, she grew up loving the outdoors, and had family members who hunted and fished.
“My degree is in natural resources and environmental protection,’’ Kruse said. “While in college, I did an internship with the DNR fisheries section, and during that time I met three conservation officers who said they absolutely loved their jobs. So I looked into it.’’
At the time, the law enforcement certificate program at Alexandria (Minn.) Technical and Community College required two years to complete.
“I said, ‘two years?’ I’ve already got a bachelor’s degree, and I’m broke,’’ Kruse said. “That’s when they started the one-year program that is a better fit for people who already have college degrees.’’
Qualified CO applicants take a written test, as well as medical, psychological and physical-agility exams. There’s also a personal interview and a background investigation. Finalists are invited to attend a three-month-long “academy’’ at Camp Ripley, near Brainerd, at which fish and game laws, identification and related subjects are taught.
“There were three women in my academy of 12, and two of us made it through,’’ Kruse said.
Field training with a veteran CO follows academy graduation, and takes four months. Then the new officers are placed in stations statewide.
“I was asked where I preferred to live and work,’’ Kruse said. “I said I was getting married, and that my husband-to-be was an engineer at 3M, so I preferred the metro.’’
In the years since, the job has panned out almost exactly the way she envisioned.
“Absolutely,’’ she said. “There’s no ‘typical’ day, which I really like. And our work varies with the season. So if you get tired of winter, spring is right around the corner. Then summer, and fall after that.’’
More women wanted
In an attempt to further diversify its CO corps while adding 20 new officers, the DNR will hold a training academy next year, with a second planned in 2015.
A new program called CO Prep also will debut in 2014. The plan will pay about $30,000 in salary and $3,000 in school expenses while successful applicants study for their law enforcement certificate. Tuition also will be covered.
Enforcement operations support manager Maj. Roger Tietz said five female senior DNR officers retired in the past two years, and the agency hopes the academy and CO Prep will replace them, and perhaps add few more women.
“The big challenge in recruiting women to be conservation officers is that you have to find women candidates, they have to have a peace officer license (a requirement CO Prep hopes to rectify) and they have to have an interest in the position,’’ Tietz said. “It’s not uncommon for women with the first two qualifications to say they don’t want to do natural resources work because they’re not familiar with it.”
Since becoming conservation officers, Glaser and Kruse each have had three children. Both said the agency was accommodating and encouraging during their pregnancies and afterward.
“It’s probably true that it’s easier for a man CO to start a family than for a woman CO,’’ said Glaser, whose husband is a Carver County deputy sheriff. “But the DNR has been very understanding. I worked in the field during my pregnancy until about five months, then took a desk job in St. Paul that I was offered.
“Even now, if I get a call I can’t handle because of a family situation, other officers help out. We help each other.’’
Added Kruse, who complements her regular duties with work as a background investigator:
“You have to find a balance, and part of finding that balance is realizing you can’t catch everyone. Some things can wait.
“On the other hand, if it’s an ongoing violation, you make it work. If that means asking a neighbor woman to help with the kids, then that’s what you do.’’