LA City Council Committee Advances Motion on Arming Park Rangers

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LOS ANGELES (CNS) - A three-person Los Angeles City Council committee today advanced a controversial motion by Councilman and committee member Joe Buscaino aimed at allowing on-duty park rangers to carry firearms.

The Arts, Parks, Health, Education and Neighborhoods Committee advanced the motion with a 2-1 vote, with Buscaino and the committee's chair, Councilman John Lee, voting in favor of advancing the motion, while Councilman Mike Bonin dissented.

The motion was introduced in February 2020, and if approved by the full City Council, 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.

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.''

Callers voicing opposition to the motion flooded the committee meeting, with people calling the idea ``preposterous,'' ``absurd,'' and ``ridiculous'.'' Several callers voiced support for a reimagining of public safety and an investment away from armed officers and into communities, citing the already-high number of police shootings.

``As the neighborhood council that represents Griffith Park, one of the largest urban parks in the United States and reflects so much of the identity of our neighborhood, we strongly oppose this motion,'' the Los Feliz Neighborhood Council stated in comment submitted to the City Council. The motion was also opposed by the neighborhood councils representing Silver Lake, Echo Park, Mid-City and Highland Park.

The Los Feliz neighborhood council said it believes that arming park rangers ``will result in the more Angelenos, especially those from marginalized groups, at the threat of being shot by law enforcement,'' noting that police in the U.S. killed 1,004 people, and Black Americans were 2.5 times more likely to be killed than white Americans.

Black Lives Matter-Los Angeles co-founder Melina Abdullah called into the committee meeting to voice BLM's opposition to arming park rangers.

``I'm a mother of three children. I go to the park so that we can get away from the violence of society,'' Abdullah said. ``I'm a Black mother of three Black children who see guns on officers as threats to their lives, and so we're asking you to vote no on this motion. Park rangers should not be armed.''

A man named Craig who identified himself as a former wilderness ranger for a government agency also called in to oppose the move to arm rangers.

``Rangers are not trained in this mission. They're trained in a very different mission ... Rangers are there for one job. The police are there for a different job. They're not the same, they should not be confused with each other,'' he said.

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.

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