Mount Vernon Police Department looking to hire park ranger

October 11, 2018

Mount Vernon police officers Chris Pash (left) and Tyler Clark talk to a couple of people Tuesday afternoon at Skagit Riverwalk Park. The city is moving ahead with plans to hire a park ranger whose responsibilities will include patrolling the city’s parks.

MOUNT VERNON — The Mount Vernon Police Department is hiring, but not for the position one might expect.

Instead of an officer to patrol the streets, the department is looking for a park ranger to work the city’s trails and parks.

This is the first time the department is looking to hire a park ranger, Mount Vernon Lt. Chris Cammock said.

The idea to hire a park ranger rather than an officer arose out of one of the city’s Problem Elimination Response Teams regarding homelessness, Mount Vernon Mayor Jill Boudreau said.

“I think it’s a really innovative step for us to look at public safety in a really progressive way,” she said. “I love the idea that we’re willing to look at things differently and be an example for cities of our size.”

While the city’s parks and trails are healthy overall, transient camps have popped up in some areas, Cammock said.

“It’s more challenging to do crime prevention in those remote areas,” he said.

Addressing some of those camps and the issues surrounding them would be part of the park ranger’s job, Cammock said.

The park ranger would work closely with the city’s Parks and Recreation Department but would also carry a weapon and have limited law enforcement capabilities such as making misdemeanor arrests and issuing citations, he said.

“They’ll look pretty much like us except they’ll wear the traditional ranger uniform,” Cammock said.

Each year, he said the city’s parks host more than 50 community events ranging from holiday activities to concerts.

The city has more than 866 acres of parks and 26 miles of trails and pathways, according to the department.

“These parks and trails are huge assets to the community,” Cammock said. “They’re a big draw for what brings people to a community and make it enjoyable.”

The goal, he said, is to hire a graduate of a program such as Skagit Valley College’s National Park Service-certified Parks Law Enforcement Academy or someone who has graduated from the state’s Basic Law Enforcement Academy and has an interest or background in parks.

Boudreau said the city is hoping to attract someone with a different mindset than that of community policing.

“No. 1 we want them to be enforcers,” she said. “But it is also a different setting than in a patrol car and in the neighborhoods.”

Part of the park ranger’s job description would be to educate the public about the parks and conservation, Cammock said.

In shaping the job description, he said the department looked to other law enforcement agencies that have a similar position, such as the city of Everett and Spokane County.

Spokane County has had a similar position for about a decade, said John Bottelli, Spokane County’s assistant director for Parks and Recreation.

The ranger started as a Parks and Recreation employee, then attended the Basic Law Enforcement Academy to become a fully certified law enforcement officer, he said.

“I’d love to have more of them,” Bottelli said.

Having that position, he said, has been particularly helpful in search and rescue scenarios and when issues arise in parks that might otherwise fall to the bottom of a patrol deputy’s list of things to do.

Skagit County Sheriff Will Reichardt said the county has a park ranger, but she is an unarmed employee of the Parks and Recreation Department with limited law enforcement powers that she can use only inside county parks.

Whomever is chosen, Cammock said, will have to undergo the same application process as any other officer, including a background check.

Unlike many seasonal and temporary parks jobs, this position will be a full-time, year-round position, he said.

Anyone interested in applying for the position may visit publicsafetytesting.com.

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