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By LIndsey Collom
Arizona Republic

They hand out hundreds of citations a year that range from drinking alcohol without a permit or loitering after city parks are closed.
Faced with increased criminal activity, park-ranger supervisors asked police to determine whether rangers need more training and tools to do their jobs better. But they weren't expecting the outcome. Police determined rangers need more personal-safety instruction and need to project a softer image.
To accomplish that goal, park rangers would be discouraged from carrying out citizen's arrests, a change they say would make them and the public more vulnerable.

Aiding police's workload
Forty-eight rangers patrol more than 200 parks and mountain preserves, including Piestewa Peak in central and northeast Phoenix, North Mountain, Camelback Mountain and South Mountain.
Park ranger Jay Rodenburg said they fill a gap between recreation staff and police.
"We take care of the smaller problems that Phoenix police might not have the manpower for," Rodenburg said. "I hope they see us as an asset, giving officers enough time to respond to priority-one calls, instead of responding to a guy drinking beer or sleeping in the park."

No more arrests for rangers
Rangers have the power to issue civil and criminal citations, which include drinking alcohol without a permit and loitering after hours. In the past, they were able to contact police to verify a person's identification before issuing a citation. In the process, police would tell rangers whether the person had a warrant for his arrest. Police officials now say rangers can't use their resources with the exception of checking for stolen vehicles.
Rangers say they need to know what kind of people they are dealing with while patrolling city parks.
"They could be the nicest person in the world, and then once you find out they've got a felony warrant and they decide they don't want to go back to jail, they will do whatever they have to do stay away," said Will Wright, a park ranger.
In the West Valley, for instance, rangers this year detained more than 70 warrant-holders in Phoenix parks until police could pick them up.

Officials: Visitors still safe
Parks and Recreation officials agreed with police that "rangers should call police and act as a good witness when crimes occur."
That means park rangers cannot intervene and detain suspects until police arrive.
Kathi Reichert, a deputy director of the Parks and Recreation Department, say the new guidelines don't mean park visitors are any less safe.
"We are not taking any authority away from the rangers," Reichert said. "There are times if police need to be called in, they have the training. And I would rather see someone who is trained and paid to do that than have our rangers put in that situation."

Wire Service
 
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