July 24, 2016

Mostly cloudy

Study doesn’t back guns for park rangers

A consultant doesn’t think arming rangers is a good idea despite the rangers’ requests to be allowed to carry weapons for self-protection and to protect parks visitors in central Ohio.

The consultant hired by Metro Parks officials in Columbus recommends that they create a separate armed police force or pay an existing law-enforcement agency to patrol the parks instead of arming existing rangers, The Columbus Dispatch reported.

A union official representing the rangers disagrees.

“They’re law-enforcement officers — arm them,” Tracy Rader, staff representative of the Fraternal Order of Police, Ohio Labor Council said. Rader noted that Metro Parks rangers already receive firearms training.

The consultant’s report noted that Cleveland Metroparks, Toledo Metro Parks and Five Rivers MetroParks in Dayton arm their rangers. It also said the U.S. Forest Service and California State Parks arm rangers.

Metro Parks officials repeatedly have rejected rangers’ requests to carry weapons.

The consultant, Voorhees Associates of Chicago, presented Metro Parks officials with several options to consider, including arming the 18 full-time rangers. But the consultant didn’t recommend that option.

One option recommended would require paying a law enforcement agency to patrol the parks, which would result in disbanding the current ranger program and replacing rangers with a “guest services” staff.

That option would save Metro Parks more than $1.5 million in annual personnel costs but would require paying for local police contracts, the report said.

Voorhees did note the parks are vulnerable to indiscriminate or targeted shootings and to someone driving into park visitors who are on foot. A majority of full-time rangers did not feel safe, according to the report.