Former SCDNR law enforcement director inducted into state hall of fame
November 3, 2022
A longtime South Carolina Department of Natural Resources law enforcement chief who made lasting contributions to the agency has been inducted into the S.C. Law Enforcement Officers Hall of Fame for meritorious service.
William “Bill” Chastain was one of eight officers added to the Hall of Fame during a ceremony Nov. 2. Chastain’s recognition was posthumous – he died Sept. 30 at age 79, a few weeks after his Hall-of-Fame nomination.
In more than 25 years at SCDNR until his retirement in 1996, Chastain implemented lasting public education programs, instituted a public reporting system to help game wardens solve wildlife crimes and arrest violators and formalized the use of undercover operations to build successful high-profile cases involving multiple agencies and jurisdictions that led to arrests and prosecution.
Chastain’s career at SCDNR began as a game warden in Greenville County in 1969 for what was then the South Carolina Wildlife Resources Department, and he rose to the position of chief of law enforcement in 1984. During his time with the agency, Chastain instituted the boater and hunter education programs still taught to this day.
He established the Operation Game Thief program, also still in practice today, that offers rewards for information leading to the arrest and conviction of those who violate the state’s natural resources laws. Chastain also led the development of the agency’s aviation unit, including the first law enforcement helicopter used by a state agency. The agency’s aircraft are used to this day to monitor possible fishing and hunting violations, for search-and-rescue efforts and manhunts.
Chastain also worked to establish South Carolina’s Hooked on Fishing – Not on Drugs campaign and successfully helped lobby state lawmakers to pass a law criminalizing the negligent or reckless use of guns or archery equipment while hunting, including penalties of fines and jail time.
Perhaps Chastain’s most lasting contribution was formalizing a covert team after becoming the head of law enforcement. In numerous undercover cases, Chastain’s agents successfully investigated illegal commercial fishing and shrimping, poaching, trafficking, deer taking and other state violations.
A years-long investigation dubbed “Operation Wild” traced illegal wildlife goods from South Carolina to nine states and at least three other countries, leading to the arrest of more than 70 people.
Under Chastain’s leadership, the Law Enforcement Division transitioned to its current form under SCDNR in 1994.
To be considered for the Law Enforcement Officers Hall of Fame, nominees must have a proven record of excellence, especially to South Carolina law enforcement as a whole, and a minimum of 25 years of law enforcement service. The nominees cannot currently be employed by a law enforcement agency or have been employed in the past five years. However, they may be nominated posthumously.