Park police provide safety, law enforcement and administrative services at thousands of national and state parks, including Liberty Island and the National Mall. These parks and tourist destinations attract millions of visitors annually and require constant attention to prevent damage to historic features or unique environmental resources. Sites like the Statue of Liberty are also commonly associated with the United States and present attractive targets to terrorists who may wish to inflict serious casualties or symbolic injury to the nation. Park police are often trained to respond to these national security and public safety incidents with swift and effective responses.
Among their many responsibilities, park police jobs involve shouldering the safety of visitors. Many visitors enter these scenic areas without regard for the dangers they present from wildlife, flora or topological hazards. Park police help ensure that tourists are aware of the risks and that they do not engage in unnecessarily dangerous activity.
Park police also serve as caretakers of the park. They ensure that precious natural or historical features are preserved for future generations. Park police are ususally armed and authorized to arrest lawbreakers or use lethal force as need.
Park Police Job Description
Park Police perform the following duties:
- Monitor the activities of visitors
- Arrest and detain criminals
- Advise visitors on the risks involved in touring the park
- Conduct search and rescue operations for missing or trapped persons
- Patrol the park grounds in vehicles, aircraft or on horseback
- Prevent any damage to national monuments
- Conduct counterterrorism operations
- Enforce traffic laws on park grounds
- Cultivate flora and fauna natural to the park
- Investigate violations of laws or park regulations
How to Become a Park Police Officer
Park police officers must usually possess the following qualifications:
- Be a U.S. citizen
- 20 years of age or older
- Have a valid driver’s license
- Possess a high school diploma or GED
- No felony convictions
- Strayer University - Bachelors of Science Degree in Criminal Justice
- Rasmussen College - Law Enforcement Associate's Degree and Post-Degree Certificates; Criminal Justice Bachelor's Degrees
- Michigan State University - Online Master of Science in Law Enforcement Intelligence and Analysis
- Saint Joseph's University - Online Master of Science in Criminal Justice
- Utica College - Online Bachelor's of Science in Criminal Justice
Many organizations including the largest in the country, the United States National Park Service, requires at least two years of post-secondary education or military service from candidates applying for park police jobs.
Applicants must successfully pass a written exam that evaluates math, reading comprehension and memory retention. A series of physical tests will also be administered that may assess stamina, strength and flexibility. A thorough background check and polygraph examination will also be conducted.
Park police perform duties that are relatively unusual for law enforcement officers. In addition to enforcing local and national laws, park police must also help care for the park environment and wildlife. In order to prepare for these responsibilities, park officers must complete the law enforcement training provided to most police officers, in addition to specific training regarding animal husbandry, horticulture, heavy equipment operation, trail working, and visitor protection.
Park Police Salary Data
The salaries of park police may vary considerably depending on the geographical location, experience and academic credentials of the officer. Among the largest Park Police organizations in the country, the starting salaries are:
- U.S. Park Police – $48,470
- New York State Park Police – $54,258
- California State Park Police – $38,532