Santa Ana Panel Says Arm Park Rangers : City government: A citizens advisory board says gang violence can’t be met with just billy clubs. Similar recommendations have been rejected in the past, though.
The city’s park rangers, who now carry batons, mace and two-way radios, should also be armed with guns, a citizens committee told the City Council.
Gang violence in city parks is increasing, and the rangers need guns to protect themselves, said Sean Mill, chairman of the city’s Recreation and Community Advisory Board. Gang members go to parks such as Madison on South Standard Avenue and El Salvador on Civic Center Drive in the evenings, he said.
“All (rangers) have against these gang members are their billy clubs and their two fists,” Mill told the City Council Monday.
Councilman John Acosta said he supports the proposal.
“They face danger every evening,” Acosta said. “If these young gang members see the rangers without any weapons, they won’t give them respect.”
Acosta asked City Manager David N. Ream and the City Council to explore the proposal. But Ream said city officials have already studied the idea several times and have decided against it.
“If they were assigned firearms, we feel it would be necessary to place them under the administration of the Police Department to get the proper training and supervision,” Ream said.
Currently, the park rangers are under the supervision of the city’s Recreation and Community Services Agency.
Santa Ana has five permanent park rangers and eight part-timers who patrol the city’s 38 parks, said Allen Doby, executive director of the agency. Each carries a baton, a can of mace, handcuffs and a two-way radio. They are required to undergo 360 hours of reserve officer classes, which include training in firearms.
Doby would not say whether he favors the committee’s proposal.
Some city officials expressed disapproval of arming park rangers because they have not had enough experience with weapons to carry them.
One city official, who asked not to be identified, recalled that in 1988 a park ranger beat a homeless man at Santiago Park with a baton.
“Can you imagine if the ranger had a gun instead? We would have a dead man on our hands,” the city official said.
But the rangers are vulnerable to weapons that gang members carry, said James Wild, a member of the advisory board.
“It’s ludicrous having them endangering their lives without protection,” he said. “A billy club sure doesn’t give them much protection against a gun.”
The park ranger program was begun in Santa Ana nine years ago to combat vandalism in the parks, Doby said. Since then, vandalism has decreased from 9,000 incidents a month to about 1,000 a month, he said. Besides patrolling, the rangers are also in charge of locking restrooms and closing parks at night.
No city in Orange County allows its park rangers to carry firearms.
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