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Wildlife Officer of the Year honors presented
23 Officer
Selected as the 2023 Wildlife Officer of the Year, officer Laura Decker is a K-9 handler, shown here with her loyal partner Maverick. Photo Contributed

Special recognition for outstanding work has been presented to Santa Clara County Wildlife Officer Laura Decker, who was named 2023 Wildlife Officer of the Year. The announcement of her selection was made by the California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW).

Wildlife Officer Decker began her career with CDFW in 2018. In the short time on patrol, Decker became relied upon as an exceptionally dedicated officer, investigator and a true asset to CDFW. Decker had a tremendous year in 2023, conducting investigations related to inland fishing, ocean fishing, hunting, abalone, Dungeness crab, unlawful streambed alterations and penal code violations to name a few. Although Decker is assigned to the Gilroy position, her patrol duties have taken her to the areas along the California coast assisting other wildlife officers whenever needed.

“It is my pleasure to recognize the outstanding efforts of Wildlife Officer Laura Decker as our Wildlife Officer of the Year,” said Nathaniel Arnold, Acting Chief of the Law Enforcement Division. “Her work accomplishments are truly impressive, and the citizens of California are lucky to have her protecting California’s diverse natural resources.”

Wildlife Officer Decker is a K-9 handler, with her loyal partner Maverick. They have responded to many requests for assistance calls from partnering law enforcement agencies, including a search for a man suspected of stabbing another at a party, a search for a firearm used in a drive-by shooting, which injured a six-year-old, and other assists to agencies in San Mateo, Santa Clara, Santa Cruz, San Benito and Monterey counties.

She was also the lead for planning Dungeness crab poaching details to respond to an uptick in Dungeness crab poaching reports in San Mateo County. Local wildlife officers patrolled the San Mateo coast for the unlawful take of Dungeness crab under Decker’s lead for weeks. The patrols resulted in 225 citations for unlawful possession/take of Dungeness crab (727 crabs), unlawful take of rock crab (89 crabs), take of undersized Dungeness crab, several San Mateo County Code violations, four DUI’s and one arrest.

Decker is especially valued as a trainer. She is an arrest/control instructor and is skillful in her demonstrations and teaching methods. She became a first aid/CPR instructor, then built upon that foundation and attended the Federal Law Enforcement Training Center’s Tactical Medicine Instructor Course. Decker is an expert at treating wounds in the field and uses this experience to train other officers and the public to survive an injury. Her training scenarios are often designed to mimic conditions a wildlife officer faces patrolling a remote location, hours away from help. Finally, Wildlife Officer Decker is a Field Training Officer, training new wildlife officers to prepare them for their career in wildlife law enforcement.

CDFW officials said that Officer Decker’s “extraordinary service to the citizens of California, our natural resources, and her fellow wildlife officers” in the Law Enforcement Division made her the obvious choice for Wildlife Officer of the Year.