National Parks:

Law Enforcement Capability and Cost Comparisons at Two Recreation Areas

RCED-86-40: Published: Mar 7, 1986. Publicly Released: Mar 27, 1986.

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In response to congressional requests, GAO reported on the: (1) ability of park rangers to adequately provide visitor and resource protection; and (2) comparative personnel compensation, benefits, and pension costs of park police and rangers.

GAO found that, based on their law enforcement training and performance: (1) commissioned park rangers are capable of providing visitor and resource protection at Gateway and Golden Gate National Recreation Areas; (2) park police and commissioned park rangers receive training in similar areas, but park police training is more extensive; and (3) park police and commissioned park rangers also must handle similar criminal offenses, such as homicide, rape, robbery, and assault. GAO also found that, in 1984: (1) law enforcement costs were about $2.3 million at Gateway and $1.7 million at Golden Gate for 84 park police and 34 commissioned park rangers; and (2) if the 84 park police had been replaced by 91 commissioned park rangers, personnel compensation and benefits costs at the two parks may have been reduced by $740,338. According to National Park Service (NPS) officials, if the 30 park police positions were eliminated, NPS: (1) would have saved $802,314 in annually recurring personnel compensation and benefits costs, and $3.2 million in pension costs with an additional $40,000 to $1.2 million in annually recurring pension costs; and (2) might have incurred $199,381 in training expenses, but relocation expenses would have decreased from $2.94 million to $2.44 million.

Recommendation for Executive Action

  1. Status: Closed - Not Implemented

    Comments: NPS received responses from regional offices regarding obtaining off-federal parkland law enforcement authority for commissioned park rangers at Golden Gate and Gateway National Recreation Areas. NPS concluded that the New York and San Francisco administrators have strong reservations in this matter and NPS plans to take no further action on this issue.

    Recommendation: The Secretary of the Interior should assess the difficulties in recruiting, retaining, and obtaining off-federal-parkland law enforcement authority for commissioned park rangers at Golden Gate and Gateway. In addition to the enforcement capabilities and cost information, the results of the assessment should provide Congress with adequate information on the consequences of shifting the work force from park police to park rangers.

    Agency Affected: Department of the Interior


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