WASHINGTON, DC--Threats, harassment and attacks against National Park Service rangers and policemen remained high for the second year in a row, including two officers killed in the line of duty, according to agency records released today by Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility (PEER).
Commissioned law enforcement rangers were victims of violent attacks 98 times in 2002, about one third of which resulted in injury. This figure parallels the 2001 high of 104 violent incidents. The National Park Service does not keep records of attacks on non-commissioned employees.
Regionally, the Nation's Capital experienced a disproportionate level of violence--28 attacks occurred within the District of Columbia, and 16 more in neighboring Maryland and Virginia. Rangers in California faced the second-highest level of violence, with 11 incidents. Other states, including Minnesota, Tennessee and Wyoming, also registered multiple attacks.
Last August, Park Ranger Kris Eggle was shot and killed in the line of duty during a struggle with fugitives at Arizona's Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument along the Arizona-Mexico border. For the third year in a row, the U.S. Park Rangers Lodge of the Fraternal Order of Police named Organ Pipes as America's Most Dangerous National Park.
Noting that park rangers are 12 times more likely to be killed or injured as a result of an assault than FBI agents, Randall Kendrick, the Lodge's Executive Director, contends that the Park Service has failed to provide adequate staffing to prevent further violence. "This agency refuses to admit that times have changed, even though study after study has pointed out the obsolete and dangerous practices of the National Park Service," Kendrick stated.
"The severity of attacks against park rangers appears to be on the rise," commented PEER's National Field Director Eric Wingerter, whose organization maintains the country's only database documenting violence against federal resource protection employees. "The fact that it refuses to track violence directed against its biologists, naturalists and non-commissioned rangers suggests that Park Service leadership does not regard the safety of its employees as a priority."