A new development in the Fish and Game code grants Waterway Conservation Officers (WCO), Game Commission Officers (GCO) and Wildlife Conservation Officers (WLCO) (but not their deputies) the ability to wear body cameras in the performance of their official duties. The new law requires that the individual must have received training on the use of body cameras in an approved course by the Pennsylvania State Police.
Waterway Conservation Officers are charged with enforcing the laws of the Commonwealth relating to fish and watercraft with the power to arrest individuals who violate the law. They also have the ability to search and seize, as well as, enter upon land or waterways in the performance of their duties.
Game Commission Officers and Wildlife Conservation Officers are charged with enforcing the laws of the Commonwealth relating to game or wildlife with the power to arrest individuals who violate the law. They also retain the power to search and seize, as well as, enter upon land or water in the performance of their duties.
What does this mean for you? If you have contact with a WCO, GCO or WLCO in the future, there is a high likelihood that they will be recording the interaction between themselves and you. This means that anything you say and/or do will be recorded and could possibly be used against you at a later time if you are charged in a court of law. As a result of the training requirement, the admission of any video or audio recording could provide some interesting avenues for suppression, if the attorney is cognizant of the issue.
Interactions with WCO, GCO or WLCO should be treated in the same manner as an interaction with the police. You, as an individual, still retain your Fourth Amendment right to be free from unreasonable searches and seizures and your Fifth Amendment right to not incriminate yourself. As such, you should not consent to any searches, no matter what the officer offers or threatens nor should you make any statements against your self-interest.