New York City Parks Enforcement Patrol
|New York City Parks Enforcement Patrol|
Patch of the New York City Parks Enforcement Patrol
|Volunteers||60 Auxiliary Officers|
|Legal personality||Governmental: Government agency|
|Operations jurisdiction*||City of New York in the state of New York, USA|
|Map of New York City Parks Enforcement Patrol's jurisdiction.|
|Legal jurisdiction||New York City|
|Specialist jurisdiction||Environment, parks, and-or heritage property.|
|Parks Enforcement Patrol Officers||85|
|Assistant Commissioner of Urban Park Services||Michael Dockett|
|Agency executive||Robert Reeves, Inspector, Parks Enforcement Patrol|
|NYC Department of Parks Official Site|
|* Divisional agency: Division of the country, over which the agency has usual operational jurisdiction.|
The New York City Department of Parks and Recreation maintains a specialized unit of full-time and seasonal uniformed peace officers who enforce department rules and regulations, as well as New York State laws within the jurisdiction of New York City parks. Established in 1981, NYC Parks Enforcement Patrol officers patrol on foot, horseback, patrol boat and in marked SUVs and trucks. Parks Enforcement officers are responsible for protecting NYC Park land, waterways under the jurisdiction of the Department of Parks and Recreation, city owned monuments, and public pools.
The history of the Park Enforcement Patrol Officers can be traced back to 1919, when the concept of the Parks Enforcement Patrol was first thought of by Bronx Parks Commissioner Joe Hennessy, who reported in the "1919 Annual Report of the Department of Parks" the "necessity of a proper protective force" to be established. The following year in his 1920 annual report to the mayor, Commissioner Hennessy once again pushed for a full-time park police force. On page 16 of the 1920 annual report he wrote that "Vandalism is ever present. It can never be checked until the Parks Department has a force of keepers with police authority" and he recommended that the "Park protectors should be under control of Park Commissioners absolutely". In 1920, legislature was passed for the creation of a force of park keepers for NYC parks but the city refused to approve it and authorize funding.
In an effort to show the mayor the effectiveness of a park patrol force in hopes of a having a full-time force established, Commissioner Hennessy created volunteer park inspectors (later called "Auxiliary Park Inspectors") to patrol the Bronx parks during the day. According to his "1919 annual report of the Department of Parks", the first park inspector he appointed was Inspector William Blackie. Inspector Blackie was injured on Columbus Day 1919 while attempting to arrest two men poaching song birds in Van Cortlandt Park.
Despite the objection of the New York City Police Department, Commissioner Hennessy established the first Park Patrol Harbor unit when he obtained two small motor boats from the Navy which he immediately put into service and had park staff patrol the waterways of the Hutchinson River.
In 1922, Commissioner Henessy (through his annual report) requested the mayor to establish special magistrates to deal with park related violations the same day the violator was arrested, provide police authority to the parks commissioners (each borough had a commissioner), and provide funding for a park patrol unit because the New York City Police officers "detailed to the Bronx parks in the summer on Saturdays, Sundays and holidays are not anxious to serve summonses or enforce the ordinances"
Despite these recommendations, no specific Parks Police force was established until 1981, when the current agency division was formed.
As of 2010, the agency employs 152 officers. Numbers have fallen due to budget constraints and personnel leaving, numbers estimated to be around 85 PEP Officers citywide. As of 2014 there is currently 280 officers with the expectancy of 400 officers by the year 2015.
There are five titles (referred to as ranks) in the New York City Department of Parks & Recreation, Parks Enforcement Patrol:
|Title||Insignia||Uniform Shirt Color|
|Deputy Director/Deputy Inspector||
|Urban Park Ranger
Parks Enforcement Officer
Power, Authority and Equipment
Parks Enforcement officers are designated as New York City Special Patrolmen and therefore have the status of New York State peace officers under NYS Criminal Procedure Law, Section 2.10. They may make warrantless arrests, carry and use handcuffs, batons, and pepper spray, use physical force, and issue summonses under section 2.20 of the same law. However, officers are not armed with a firearm.
A 10-week Parks Enforcement Academy is held on Randall's Island at the Parks Enforcement Security Training Academy. Training include physical fitness, criminal procedure and penal law, arrest procedures, parks rules and regulations as well as vehicle traffic law and summons writing training. The course includes unarmed self-defense training and baton (PR-24) training conducted by a NYS certified instructor.
Urban Park Rangers
NYC Urban Park Rangers are a separate division within the department, and although they do have peace officer powers through Special Patrolman status, their primary function is public education and resource related issues unlike the Parks Enforcement officers, who have a primary mission of law enforcement in the parks.
Rangers operate out of the city's seven nature centers and lead nature-oriented programs. Like PEP, they patrol in marked law enforcement vehicles. Rangers are also responsible for handling injured, abandoned, or displaced animals found in the city's parks.
Mounted Auxiliary Unit
Begun in 1996 the NYC Parks Enforcement Patrol Mounted Auxiliary Unit is a volunteer unit within the department. This unit is made up of private citizens who volunteer their time by working with officers of the Parks Enforcement Patrol. Auxiliary officers patrol in full uniform and on horseback in various NYC parks, and "ensure the preservation of the natural and living resources in the city's parks, as well as the safety of those utilizing the parks, by maintaining a clearly visible presence. They monitor areas that are not accessible by vehicle; they deter, identify and report illegal or unsafe activities that require Parks Enforcement Patrol or police attention; and they advise the public on park rules and regulations." As an IRS 501C Corporation, the Auxiliary solicits funding to purchase horses, tack and provide training for both the Volunteers and the Professional Officers. Since inception it has provided several hundred thousand dollars towards the operation of the Mounted Unit, including the Capital Construction of a new barn. Former Parks Commissioner Adrian Benepe was quoted as saying "there is some doubt that the Parks Department could afford to run a mounted unit without the Mounted Auxiliary." Auxiliary officers do not have powers beyond a citizen and cannot not make arrests. For this reason a typical patrol will include a Professional PEP Officer (who has Peace Officer staus)and an Auxiliary Officer. By combining the two, the manpower of the Parks Enforcement Patrol is significantly increased at no cost to the City. Should the team come upon a situation requiring enforcment, the PEP Officer can deal with it while the Auxiliary Officer covers the Officer's back and radios the situation to Parks Central and if needed will ask for additional help. In order to become Auxiliary officers, candidates must "undergo extensive training before going on patrol. Candidates for the unit must prove their riding skills and learn about PEP policies and procedures, use of radios and Parks rules and regulations before acceptance into the Unit and clearance to patrol." 
Urban Park Rangers and Associate Urban Park Rangers (Sergeants) are represented by DC37 Local 983, a civil service employees union. The union is currently headed by President Joseph Puleo.
- List of law enforcement agencies in New York
- Law enforcement in New York City
- New York City Police Department
- New York City
- New York City Police Department Auxiliary Police
- New York State Park Police
- United States Park Police
- NYC Department of Parks and Recreation website
- New York State Assembly web site. Click on CPL for Criminal Procedure law, then article II, then section 2.10. Accessed December 3, 2007
- New York State Assembly web site. Click on CPL for Criminal Procedure law, then article II, then section 2.20. Accessed December 3, 2007
- Auxiliary Board of Directors
- About NYC Parks Enforcement Patrol Mounted Auxiliary Unit.