SACRAMENTO – California State Parks rangers who serve on the Resource Protection Peace Officers Association (RPPOA) board met on February 7, 2018 in a video conference to discuss major public safety concerns for park visitors and rangers, and the perceived lack of concern by State Parks management.
“Park visitors should know that peace officer-rangers are spread so thin, there are parks that have no law enforcement present at all,” said RPPOA President Matt Yarbrough. “The law enforcement officers we do have, are responding to emergencies in vehicles that break down and have no computers in them. The majority of our rangers are not equipped with tasers. These are truly public and officer safety issues that are not being addressed by California State Parks management. It’s not safe for the officer, it’s not safe for the public”
“We are at the breaking point,” said RPPOA Treasurer Nathan Smith. “We are spread thinner and thinner at a time when park visitation is up. We can’t respond in a timely manner and we don’t have the safety equipment.”
The rangers discussed the types of calls they are responding to, noting that they are no different from the calls that surrounding law enforcement officers are responding to, including homicides, shots fired, vehicle accidents, drownings, assaults with a deadly weapon and reported sex assaults.
“The difference is those departments have a greater number of officers and can respond in a manner that is safe for the officers and in which they can provide protection to the public,” said Yarbrough.
The RPPOA board said questions park visitors should be asking the California Department of Parks and Recreation are:
- Where are the rangers?
- What is the minimal staffing at a given park?
- Will my call to 911 be answered?
- What is the typical response time?
- Can I take my family to this park and feel safe?
“I take pride in protecting the park and the people I’m sworn to protect,” said RPPOA Acting Vice President and Secretary John Geno Lucich. “But I won’t take my daughter to most of the parks I work at. There are dangerous elements in parks with minimal law enforcement, public safety and resource protection present. This is due to inadequate staffing levels and political inertia.”
The rangers have their own question for Parks management, which include:
- What is the department doing to recruit and retain rangers?
- Why are some rangers issued tasers, while others are not?
- What is being done to purchase safety equipment and emergency response vehicles?
- What is being done to recruit and retain State Parks communications operators?
- What is being done to reduce response time and increase public and officer safety?