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Parks Stewardship Forum

UC Berkeley

When green is blue: Perspectives on inclusivity and recommendations towards reforming and demilitarizing law enforcement in US national parks

  • Author(s): Hicks, Akiebia S.
  • Mirza, Sanober
  • Rice, William L.
  • Richards, Jacob C.
  • Alarab, Mahmoud R.
  • et al.
Abstract

Park and protected area management has a rich history of discourse, in both scholarly and managerial realms, concerning the role and public perceptions of law enforcement. For as long as national parks have existed in the United States, they have been patrolled and protected by those in uniform. Although National Park Service law enforcement rangers primarily are concerned with protection of resources, their duties continue to evolve with changes in park use trends and societal and technological advances. This paper examines how the strong presence of law enforcement in national parks impacts the diverse visitor and provides recommendations for reform. Even while the National Park Service and its partners examine outreach initiatives to attract diverse visitors, law enforcement may serve as a constraint on doing so. As the world turns its attention to policing in the United States and recent uprisings in response to the George Floyd slaying, a rigid approach to national park law enforcement in the Hashtag Era will continue to serve as a hindrance to diversity in national parks⁠—unless considerable change is undertaken. [This is a paper from “Systemic Threats to Parks & Protected Areas,” the 2020 George Wright Society Student Summit.]

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