San Jose

City of San Jose Debates Giving Guns to Park Rangers

The city of San Jose is debating whether or not park rangers should be armed with guns as their concern for safety grows.

Those for park rangers carrying guns claim there is a criminal element rangers have been encountering, running into problems like witnessing people stealing vehicles and pulling out weapons.

Their main reasoning stands in the fact that carrying guns could prevent environmental damage around homeless encampments. Something not all are in agreeance with.

"It perpetuates a 'hysterical' culture of fear against the homeless that's completely unjustified," said Shaunn Cartwright from the South Bay Tenants Union.

Mayor Sam Liccardo is also not convinced it would make the city safer.

"It is important certainly to keep our park rangers safe but I'm not eager to see anyone other than a trained police officer with a gun," he said.

Pam Helmke, who has been a San Jose park ranger for 32 years, as well as the Parks Peace Officer Association emphatically dispute the notion they are 'not trained.’

They point out park rangers meet more stringent hiring standards than many police agencies.

The association also says new hires attend a more-than-700-hour federal academy that includes extensive firearm training and tactical law enforcement drills.

For Teresa Perez, who visits Emma Prusch Park in San Jose frequently, the guns are a good idea.

"If a Park Ranger would have been here and would have had a gun or something, I would have felt more secure," she said.

Rangers are currently equipped with pepper spray and a tactical baton.

San Jose’s Parks and Recreation Department will spend about six months consulting many partnering agencies including the police as well as the public before making a final proposal.

Contact Us