WHEELING - Steve Haines loves both the outdoors and being a policeman, and he says his job as a law enforcement agent with the West Virginia Division of Natural Resources suits him perfectly as he walks a beat in the woods.
For three years, Haines has worked as a WVDNR agent assigned to Ohio County, and he was chosen the agency's officer of the year for 2013 from among 117 agents across the state.
He also has won contests among the officers pertaining to shooting and boating abilities.
Photo by Joselyn King
West Virginia Division of Natural Resources Steve Haines, left, receives the 2013 Officer of the Year award from WVDNR Capt. Roy Cool.
Haines, 38, is a native of the Northern Panhandle who received a degree in criminal justice from the former West Liberty State College. He worked two years as a Weirton Police officer before taking a job as a conservation officer in Indiana for eight years. He moved back to the Ohio Valley for the opportunity with WVDNR and to be near family.
"I love the outdoors," Haines, a hunting enthusiast, said. "It didn't take me very long to know I had a good thing going. Ninety-percent of people I deal with are good people, and I can identify with them really well. My brother, dad and the whole family are outdoorsmen. It's nice to be protecting what I have a love for."
Haines said most people likely would be surprised at how diverse a job it is to be in natural resources law enforcement. He might be checking someone's fishing license at one moment, then be assisting the State Police in a robbery chase.
Haines was credited with helping to catch a suspect in an armed robbery at a bar in Clearview last year.
"The car fled the scene," he said. "I was on patrol, and I came across it. I attempted to stop him on W.Va. 2. There was a high speed pursuit - none of the other units were close yet. We went down Vance Street in Warwood. He bailed out and we had a foot chase for three blocks.
"Wheeling police and the State Police apprehended the guy."
He said he also was involved in another case in which kayaks on local waterways were found to be transporting drugs.
The best part of the job is dealing every day with the sportsmen and sportswomen, and "seeing them with their children, enjoying the outdoors," according to Haines. The biggest challenge to the natural resources officer is to be familiar not just with environmental code, but motor vehicle laws and criminal laws.
"They're ever-changing," he said. "It can be pretty difficult at times."
Natural resource officers work closely with other local law enforcement agencies, and assist them in more remote areas.
"And they help me out a lot, too," Haines said. "Ohio County is blessed with the law enforcement officers they have. We have some phenomenal guys here. People are surprised to hear what we (natural resource officers) do. When it's a matter of public safety, we all have to help out."
Haines thanked his wife, Rosemarie; his parents, Willis and Diana Haines; and his mentor, WVDNR Corporal Steve Himmelrick.
"I am fortunate to be blessed with a great family," he said. "And Corp. Himmelrick is a remarkable friend and exceptionally talented officer who taught me the trade. My name may be on the award, but it actually belongs to them."