Griffith Park

Proposal to Arm LA Park Rangers Passes Committee Vote

The controversial motion will next go to the Los Angeles City Council.

A view looking east from Bee Rock in Griffith Park.
Jonathan Lloyd/NBCLA

A proposal that would allow park rangers in Los Angeles to carry firearms while on duty passed a committee vote this week.

The three-person Los Angeles Arts, Parks, Health, Education and Neighborhoods Committee advanced the motion Wednesday with a 2-1 vote. The motion introduced by Councilman Joe Buscaino in February 2020 requires full City Council approval.

If approved by the council, the proposal would direct the City Attorney to prepare an amendment to the city's municipal code to allow park rangers to carry firearms.

Supporters of the motion note that the city's 28 park rangers are sworn peace officers and receive basic police training after they are hired. Under Los Angeles Municipal Code 63.41, park rangers have authorization to make arrests but not carry firearms. During an emergency, they typically call for backup from the Los Angeles Police Department.

The motion to arm the park rangers was supported by the neighborhood councils representing Arleta, Northwest San Pedro, Hollywood United, Tarzana, and Foothills Trails District.

Supporters also include LAPD Chief Michel Moore, the Park Law Enforcement Association, the Peace Officers Research Association of California, the United Firefighters of Los Angeles City, the Los Angeles Police Protective League and various homeowners associations.

Chief Park Ranger Joe Losorelli said during the committee meeting that the violent crime increase during the pandemic is impacting safety in parks as well, and that without firearms, park rangers have to wait for the LAPD to respond to violent situations.

He noted an incident in Elysian Park in which park rangers attempted to make contact with two people who were drinking beers in the park, but "before they even have enough information to gather these individuals names and phone numbers, they're shot at.''

He added that the rangers had to wait 10 minutes for a police response during that incident.

Councilman Mike Bonin, who opposed the motion, said he found problems with the argument that the park rangers should be armed because they currently have to wait for police to respond.

"So does everybody else. If having to call the cops is a justification for somebody being armed, then ... are we going to then next month start talking about arming LADOT officers, are we going to start talking about arming parking attendants, are we going to start talking about arming librarians? There's certainly incidents in our libraries and our librarians have to call officers,'' Bonin said.

He also added that just last year, elected officials in the city were committing to a reimagining of public safety and attempts to reduce the number of armed officers in the public's lives.

"This feels like it is completely opposite to that dynamic, to that impulse, and to what I certainly felt was a commitment by the vast majority of the members of the L.A. city government,'' Bonin added. "I don't think that most people thought when we talked about getting armed police officers out of certain aspects of daily life in Los Angeles that that meant that we would start arming other people to deal with those issues.''

The motion will next go to the City Council, not the Public Safety Committee, according to the office of that committee's chair, Councilwoman Monica Rodriguez.

Copyright CNS - City News Service
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