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Utah's Department of Natural Resources recommends combining law enforcement agencies

Posted at 10:41 AM, Sep 13, 2023

SALT LAKE CITY — Utah's Department of Natural Resources is planning to combine its four separate law enforcement entities into one police force, FOX 13 News has confirmed.

The agency informed staffers this week that it would unify all its law enforcement entities, but no layoffs are planned. The idea has been considered for months, with a committee evaluating DNR's law enforcement structure. Currently, DNR has 168 officers and investigators in four separate policing entities under its umbrella: State Parks, Wildlife Resources, Outdoor Recreation and Forestry, Fire & State Lands.

But there is little overlap in their roles. The idea of unification allows for consistency in public safety response, Utah DNR Executive Director Joel Ferry said in a statement to FOX 13 News.

"In recent years, law enforcement nationwide has experienced significant changes. We want to ensure we are serving the public and representing the department in the most efficient and effective manner possible," he said. "Unifying our law enforcement will allow for a straight line of authority within the department and ensure consistent training, equipment and opportunities for our officers, rangers and investigators. Now is the right time to unify our law enforcement by creating the Natural Resources Law Enforcement Division."

Combining the law enforcement entities will be a phased-in approach, DNR said, expected to be completed by 2028.

"With the growth in popularity of outdoor recreation and the size of DNR’s law enforcement presence, we have to make sure we’re policing in a way that protects the officers and serves the public effectively," Utah Division of Outdoor Recreation director Jason Curry said in a statement. “As we bring consistency across the board, we’ll be able to ensure both of those goals are met."