Though the concept of a park ranger appears to be quite a simple and seemingly peaceful job, complications and controversies surrounding our City’s park rangers have surged.
The park rangers’ mission is to “enforce the Recreation and Park Department code throughout the city agency’s 3,400 acres of open space. Their job consists of issuing citations for alcohol consumption, littering, and unleashed dogs among San Francisco’s parks. They also keep track of permits and safety hazards.
But there has been increasing criticism on the aggression that many of these park rangers seem to have toward park visitors. Complaints have been issued about the confrontational attitudes of park rangers over small matters.
I watched three Park Rangers (one was a Supervisor named Cheryl Koel) take thirty minutes to issue the citation, and they summoned an SFPD squad car for assistance when the dog owner did not provide his information quickly enough. That’s 3 Park Rangers for half an hour plus 2 SF Police Officers to issue 1 off leash dog citation. This appears to be a costly way of enforcing minor infractions.
While many feel that Park Rangers may be taking their job just a little too seriously, the rangers themselves would like to receive full law enforcement authority, which includes the right to carry a gun.
According to SF Weekly, rangers argue that they deal with serious and dangerous situations such as drugs, gang violence, and outdoor sex, but do not have authority to make arrests.
But former New York police officer and retired SF park ranger Mike Horan thinks granting park rangers more power could pose some consequences: “You think the BART shooting [of Oscar Grant] was bad? Wait until you give these guys guns.”
Granting our park rangers more power not only means more controversy, but can also prove to be extremely costly. Both staff and overtime pay have increased significantly; last year, a park ranger made $144,606, with approximately half of his salary being overtime pay.
Despite the conflict over our City’s park rangers, Recreation and Park Department General Manager, Phil Ginsburg says he’s “open to the process of independently reviewing citizen complaints … in the best interest of the people and of the rangers.”