With the advent of compact video and audio recorders that are now part of most cellular telephones, the public has in many cases become news cameramen. If their film footage does not reach the level of newsworthiness for the visual image hungry 24 hour media outlets, they can always self-broadcast on services such as YouTube or blogs. Of course these video clips are like the political sound bites we see every day, they are edited and expanded on to show an often uncomplimentary or partial view.
I used to tell other Park Rangers that whenever in public you should consider yourself to be on camera and to make decisions, act, and talk as if you are. The intent is not to be false or less efficient but as a reminder to always remain calm, professional, and to do the right thing.
Here are some examples of recent views of Park Rangers placed out in cyberspace for anyone to see.....
Be sure to listen to the audio in this filming of an arrest at Cape Hatteras. You may note that the producers left out any information as to why the Park Rangers were contacting this suspect.
This public fascination with video recording of Park Rangers in the performance of their duty makes the use of In Car Video and Security Cameras by Rangers exceptionally relevant. I remember when we first started to purchase car camera units for field Park Rangers on the Blue Ridge Parkway. The initial resistance to have them installed was predictable. Once the video recordings were applied to answering frivolous complaints and to substantiate reasonable suspicion for stopping vehicles, the application of cameras became part of the everyday operations of Park Rangers. It got to the point that when I received a letter or telephone call complaint about how a person we treated by a Ranger, all I had to do was say that I would review the video and in almost every case the plaintiff withdrew their accusation.
The use of In Car Cameras also served as a valuable tool of self-evaluation for Park Rangers to improve on their officer safety and information gathering skills.
So whether it is a by stander to an incident or their own equipment, National Park Rangers are becoming screen stars. My advice is to keep this information in the back of your mind and use that thought to your advantage remaining professional and focused. Get used to being filmed and do not let the presence of cameras intimidate your decision making processes.