Below you will note two incidents where state park rangers were involved in shootings this weekend. One in Tennessee and the other in Utah that has left Brody Young fighting for his life in a hospital after being shot three times. Both incidents occurred during a car stop situation for most likely some type of minor violation. Going back more than thirty five years I remember during my earliest National Park Service law enforcement training that the most dangerous situations that officers could face were vehicle stops and domestic disputes. During my career I found this information to be true and these two incidents once again confirm that conclusion.
Academic studies and analysis of data have shown that National Park Rangers are the most likely to be physically assaulted of all Federal law enforcement personnel. Exposure during vehicle stop situations when park rangers have no idea who they are dealing with contributes to the increased potential for violent attacks. In comparison, most Federal law enforcement officers and agents do not regularly make vehicle stops unless they are planned well in advance following an investigation and with adequate resources available not alone in a remote area with no backup within quick response.
No matter what agency a park ranger works for, they face many of the same threats and dangers on the job. These two recent events testify to that fact.
Park rangers provide what is referred to as “full service” law enforcement services. That means that they respond initially to any violations and crimes that occur within their area of jurisdiction. They are much like most state and local law enforcement officers in this regard.
Park rangers generally work in areas that are remote and unpopulated and therefore do not have many other law enforcement officers in the immediate area. Consequently, assistance in the form of backup when a situation goes bad is most likely not near at hand. Criminals are aware of this and may be more embolden to physically challenge park rangers.
FBI studies have shown that a significant number of law enforcement officers that are shot in the line of duty were known by the public as friendly and helpful persons. These words can be used to describe most park rangers. Once again a criminal that is either desperate or under the influence of drugs or alcohol may feel over confident that they can come out on top in a physical confrontation.
This may be simplistic and many more factors have to be considered in each situation a law enforcement officer faces, but these are some of basic challenges faced by park rangers each day they put on their uniform.
For now let us all remember Utah State Park Ranger Brody Young in our thoughts and prayers that he will soon return to his family and the outdoors he loves.