The National Park Service is primarily a land management agency and our law enforcement program is aimed primarily at resource protection, natural and cultural. However, we also deal with the same issues and incidents that every local police agency deals with. As you know, we often work in isolated areas where communications may be poor and assistance limited. It is said that park rangers: 1) protect the people from the parks, 2) the parks from the people, and 3) the people from the people. With 379 NPS units, the degree of law enforcement can vary greatly from unit to unit. However, law enforcement is just one of the many things park rangers do - they are also involved with emergency operations which include search & rescue, emergency medical operations, wildland fire, structural fire and natural disasters. Q. Does everyone who becomes a park ranger have to go through law enforcement training or is this specialized work? Tell us a little about the training program. Every protection (or commissioned) park ranger must have formal training in law enforcement. Permanent park rangers must successfully complete the 14 week training course at the Federal Law Enforcement Training Center. The students receive formal training in criminal law,regulations specific to the NPS, search & seizure, evidence handling & collection, case preparation, report writing, court presentation, self-defense, pursuit driving, arrest techniques, use of firearms, physical fitness, along with other topics specific to the NPS such as natural and cultural resource protection (endangered species protection, archaeological and paleoentological protection). Seasonal park rangers must also receive formal training in law enforcement and resource protection to enable them to do their job.
Q. How does the Law Enforcement Program differ from the Park Police?
The fundamental purpose of the National Park Service is to conserve the scenery and the natural and historic objects and the wildlife therein and to provide for the enjoyment of the same in such manner and by such means as will leave them unimpaired for the enjoyment of future generations. To accomplish this mission, the National Park Service has employed two law enforcement resources - National Park Service protection park rangers and United States Park Police officers. Although each law enforcement entity functions independently, with distinct day to day tasks, they work cooperatively to accomplish the broad objectives of the National Park Service mission.
The United States Park Police provide law enforcement service with a particularly urban expertise in National Park Service areas within Washington DC, San Francisco, California and New York City. Park rangers and special agents provide the criminal enforcement and much of the civil enforcement in the remainder of the NPS field areas, with emphasis on natural and cultural resource protection.
Q. What is typical day like at your job?
My day begins at 0425 when I roll out of bed and begin the 100 minute commute to work. I arrive at the office at about 0625 and start checking my E-mail and telephone messages, looking for the "crisis of the day." A typical day would involve one or two meetings dealing with Ranger Activities related issues; answering numerous telephone calls from park areas, Congressional staffers, other NPS and WASO Federal offices, and other interested citizens - providing information and assistance; writing correspondence and letters specific to my program areas to anyone who inquires, from the average citizen to Congressmen; weekly budget issues; etc. My program areas require a fair amount of travel which allows me to visit field areas on a regular basis. Last year alone I visited parks in 15 states and logged over 48,000 airline miles.
Q. What aspects of your job do you enjoy the most?
Being involved in Policy making decisions that I hope will benefit field rangers; working with other law enforcement agencies, both at the Federal and State level; addressing and solving thorny issues that make life a little easier on park rangers; traveling to field areas to teach, review operations or assist in a crisis situation.