GLENDALE — Frustrated by the lack of funds for park security, Russ Hauck set out two years ago to change state law to make it possible to increase the number of rangers without increasing the cost.
On June 30, Gov. Pete Wilson signed into law a bill that gives reserve park rangers the authority to serve as peace officers in the same way full-time park rangers do.
The bill took effect immediately, and now Glendale is looking to add 10 volunteer reserves to its current staff.
"This legislation will give us the opportunity to use volunteers to help patrol our parks and open space," said Hauck, a park ranger supervisor who helped draft the legislation. "Prior to this law, only police and sheriff's departments, and a handful of specialized law enforcement agencies, were authorized to use reserve peace officers."
Hauck said the new law, which was supported by both the California Parks and Recreation Society and the Park Rangers Assn. of California, will be a big help to parks districts and law enforcement agencies throughout the state.
The reserve park rangers will be required to undergo special training similar to that of full-time park rangers. Like reserve police officers, they will volunteer their time and, when on duty, serve the same function as regular peace officers.
In Glendale, park rangers work for the city parks department and are responsible for foot patrols in the city's score of parks. The number of rangers was reduced several years ago as part of a budget-cutting plan, and the city now has just three full-time park rangers, officials said. But five part-time park rangers are expected to be hired within the next few months.
Some city officials and residents have called for increased security in parks after a May 30 incident in which a Hoover High School student was stabbed to death at Brand Park in an after-school fight.