San Jose will offer additional training and protection for the rangers who patrol the city’s 100-plus parks and 50-plus miles of trails.
According to a report up for discussion at Tuesday’s City Council meeting, the city plans to equip rangers with body cameras and prohibit them from performing enforcement-related work in the creeks and waterways unless accompanied by sworn police officers.
The recommendations come after months of public meetings and extensive research into the matter. The recently published report also concluded that it’s best not to arm rangers with guns, which some of them had requested in response to encountering an increasing number of homeless camps.
Rangers are already equipped with a straight baton, collapsible baton, body armer and pepper spray, which is sufficient for the level of risk, according to city staff.
Blake Whisenhunt, a veteran park ranger, said that’s not enough.
“Asking city council and communities to help us address these risks requires everyone to admit publicly that their safe, quiet parks aren’t really what they wish they were,” he wrote in a letter urging the city to arm him and his cohorts. “It requires our management to admit that we do law enforcement, not only because it is what we are trained to do but because it is expected of us because [the Parks, Recreation and Neighborhood Services Department] asks us to. It requires our management to admit that we are highly vetted and extensively trained as peace officers for the city of San Jose. We have been lied to and failed by our non-sworn, non-law enforcement management, and they’ve failed the people of this city as well. If there are hoops to jump through to arm us appropriate to the level of training we receive, just tell us when to jump and how high. We welcome regulation and oversight with open arms.”
However, the working groups that spent much of the past year studying the needs of park rangers determined that guns won’t be necessary with additional support from San Jose police and the Santa Clara Valley Water District.
“The park rangers’ duties will no longer include unaccompanied enforcement or encampment-related work in the creeks and waterways,” the report concludes. “This work will now occur in partnership with the police department. In the long-term, the administration will consider creation of a Parks Police Unit to focus on criminal activity in city parks and undeveloped park land at such time that the police department is sufficiently staffed and has addressed its more urgent resource needs.”
More from the San Jose City Council agenda for January 29, 2019:
- The city will consider reducing speed limits for portions of Charcot, Lean and Edenvale avenues, Leyland Park Drive, Oakland and Brokaw roads and Great Oaks Parkway. Speeds on these streets will reduce by five miles per hour, except the portion of Brokaw Road, which will remain at 40mph.
- The San Jose State women’s soccer team will be on hand to accept a commendation from the council for their accomplishments during their 2018 season.
- A proclamation will be issued to declare Tuesday as International Holocaust Remembrance Day.
- A construction contract up for consideration would help the city upgrade 135 sidewalk curb ramps around several schools in San Jose to increase disability access.
- The city will grant Unique Towing exclusive rights to its roadside enforcement program.
- Pay bumps are poised to be granted to certain city mechanic positions.
- T-Mobile plans to build several hundred more cell sites, which it says will offer more broadband services for the city, especially for low-income residents.
- The council will consider designating the Carrie and Frank Dreischmeyer house a historic landmark. The Spanish Colonial Revival-style building at 1195 Willow Street—one of the oldest thoroughfares in Willow Glen—was built in 1923 and designed by regionally significant architectural firm Wolfe & Higgins for the Dreischmeyers, a family of German-descendant brickmakers, attorney and orchard owners.
WHAT: City Council meets
WHEN: 1:30pm Tuesday
WHERE: City Hall, 200 E. Santa Clara St., San Jose
INFO: City Clerk, 408.535.1260