Hilliard Northwest News

Metro Parks board says no to armed rangers


A local police union vowed it will continue to fight for armed rangers in the Franklin County Metropolitan Park District.

Tracy Rader, representative of the Fraternal Order of Police/Ohio Labor Council, said the union was "saddened" that the park district's board of commissioners opted not to arm the 18 full-time rangers who patrol the 17 parks.

"We believe law enforcement should be armed," Rader said. "We stand by that and we'll stand by that always."

The Board of Park Commissioners Jan. 14 approved several new safety measures for the Metro Parks. Omitted from that plan, however, was a request by the FOP calling for rangers to carry firearms.

Of the three commissioners, only Jim McGregor supported the union's position.

"If we have (Ohio Peace Officer Training Academy)-trained officers, it should be part of their gear," McGregor said.

Commissioner Greg Lashutka appeared to be open to the measure, saying "it was not off the table." Jeff McNealey said he currently is against it.

"We as a Metro Parks system treat civic safety and the safety of our personnel as one of our highest goals," McNealey said.

"However, in addressing the issue on how those goals are going to be met, we have to decide whether any specific action is going to have a measurable effect on the enviable record of safety in the Metro Parks system."

Rader argued that in other jurisdictions where the various parks are located, police are allowed to carry guns in the parks, as are civilians. Battelle Darby, for example, has a public hunting area.

Among the new safety measures approved by the board is a provision for "additional non-lethal defensive weapons for law-enforcement staff."

The rangers are now equipped with radios, Mace and handcuffs. Specifics of what additional nonlethal weapons are under consideration were not detailed in the resolution.

Peg Hanley, spokeswoman for Metro Parks, said the system has an exemplary safety rate.

There were 72 court citations issued in 11 of 12 months of 2013, none for violent crimes. December's numbers weren't available late last week.

Both McGregor and the union said they will keep encouraging the other commissioners to support the request for armed rangers.

"We're going to keep pressing," Rader said. "We're not giving up."