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Organizational Identity Change in Conservation Law Enforcement: Lessons for Pennsylvania

Michael J. McSkimming, Robert Vance Dunbar, Ahmet Guler


Conservation officer safety has become a growing concern across the United States. This is particularly true since the scope of conservation law enforcement has expanded to include duties often relegated to more traditional law enforcement agencies such as state and local police. As a result, several states have changed the titles of their conservation officers to reflect a more police-oriented stature (e.g., Conservation Police Officer). This study analyzes how a change in organizational identity, through a title change, impacts conservation officers, the general public, traditional law enforcement agencies, and governmental entities. The major findings suggest that those states that have changed the titles of their officers have experienced enhanced organizational legitimacy with natural resource users, other law enforcement agencies, and state legislatures. Given these findings, this article argues that it would be advantageous for Pennsylvania to at least consider making a title change for their conservation officers. 

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