There is actually a purpose to this blog

Scott Adams - the writer of the 'Dilbert' comic strip - once described a Mission Statement as 'a long, complicated paragraph demonstrating management's inability to think clearly.' Therefore, I'll not call this a mission statement.

This blog is dedicated to informing civilian Park Rangers about topics routine taught to police officers but almost unknown to most of us who wear a uniform, work alone, and confront potentially dangerous on a frequent basis.

This blog is intended to offer suggestions based on my experience, and on my understanding of Maryland Law. It may be different where you are.

That's my mission.

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Another Kind of Defense

I saw a sign posted in a coffee shop recently. 80 percent of the deer ticks in my county carry Lyme Disease.  I don't know the stats of the bigger dog ticks, but at least some of them carry Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever.  Then there are chiggers.

In North America, chiggers don't carry disease, but they don't need to. The ferocious itching caused by chigger bites are enough for me.

It's that time of year again, and time to do something about it this time.

Take a minute to read up on Permethrin, a synthetic version of a chemical found in chrysanthemum plants; it kills a whole slew of noxious insects on contact. (Ticks will apparently drop off clothing treaded with Permetrin before they get a chance to dig in. I don't care - as long as they don't bite me.) It repels mosquitos, chiggers - all kinds of things, and it has a very low toxicity to mammals. Except cats. And it is highly toxic to fish.

Permethrin bonds tighty to clothing fibres and will last for 6 or more washings. FYI it's not for applying to the skin. Interestingly, the reason is that it metabolizes in fifteen or twenty minutes, not that it is harmful, but don't do it anyway.

Browse for Permethrin + Sawyer and read up on the product. If you enjoy the thought of being tick and chigger bitten as little as I do, you might think it over.

BTW - sells it in larger, concentrated quantities. Write them and they will tell you that the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) buys it from them and mixes it with water to soak their clothing it, and give you the ratio.

Sunday, March 27, 2011

Another Point of View

I was in our yearly in-service class last week and another Ranger said something that reminded me of why I even have this blog.

I don't recall the context, but my colleague responded to a question by saying, "Something that terrified me - still terrifies me - is closing up the park late at night." Honestly, and I'm not trying to be macho here, being alone in the Park at night doesn't bother me. Then again, I am bigger and taller and much, much more experienced than the other Ranger.

That's not the point.

The point is she is afraid doing what she does for a living - at least part of the time - and that really makes for a miserable life. I wouldnt wish fear on anybody, especially when one has to do it day after day, week after week.

My suggestion for her, and for all other civilian Rangers, is to attend at least one self defense course, particularly one taught by a former police officer. Ask him or her for pointers on what is most frightening to you. Then, when out alone, analyze every situation that has been frightening, or could likely occurr. Think of potential escape routes for every location. Forget the 'face to face' aspects of making your guests feel welcome. Do that in the daytime; at night, or in remote places, do it from the vehicle with your foot on the brake. If something goes amiss, floor it. If you get spooked by something, get away from it. Plan your work so you are in more developed parts of the park late at night.

And lastly, recruit help. They don't even have to know what you are doing, but you can increase your safety by stopping by a campsite occupied by a friendly camper on your way to the lower forty to have a chat. As you leave, casually mention where you are headed, and throw in, "It shouldn't take me more than ten minutes; I have to be back in this area as soon as I can." If much more than that elapses, hopefully he will take a look or call somebody to check on you.

I can't  say it too often: Plan it in advance.

Monday, March 14, 2011

Officers killed - 2011

As of this date, 42 police officers have died in the line of duty in the United States this year. That's one every 1.75 days.  God bless our police officers.

“Hey! Let’s be careful out there!” Sgt. Philip Freemason Esterhaus / Hill Street Blues

Thursday, March 3, 2011

I'm back - in one piece, more or less.

After almost ten years on the job, my agency decided to send me to Ranger school last month. 

Part of the reason they waited so long is that I became a Ranger through the back door - I was already a certified police officer and a certified high school teacher. After several years and a Departmental reorganization that saw most enforcement Rangers transferred to the Natural Resources Police, I became certified as a civilian Ranger by taking a bunch of stand alone courses. Because of my years of police and classroom experience, and my years of working in the Park system, when there came an influx of new civilian Rangers and a new Ranger school cirriculum, they were sent to the training before I was.

I didn't care. I dreaded it like the plague. My only frame of reference for the school was Army Basic Training, Officer Candidate School, and the State Police Academy; I knew it wouldn't be like that - no disciplinary pushups, no bracing against the wall, no "Sir, no sir!" But I dreaded it anyway.

After four Ranger schools, they finally caught up with me and a dozen+  other folks. (A lot of them had been around a good while, but I was the only certified Ranger in the class.)  I already knew the school Dean and the two assistant Deans well, (and - it turned out - virtually every instructor) but I still couldn't shake the dread. I have been accused of making up stuff to worry about.


I survived in spite of my worries. (Like most of the class, I got sick - what do you expect in February when you bring a group of people together from all over the state? What I didn't expect was that the germs - aided by 16-20 hour days - would trigger my athsma and that it would last for five weeks, so far. On the day of graduation, a goodly number of my classmates were still coughing.) As it turned out, I actually had a reasonably good time (take out the first week, when my understrength team was on Operations duty and we had to handle various 'incidents' {I really hate role play} and write up the various incident reports.) After thirty five years as a police officer, I needed to write another incident report like I needed a hole in the head.

I met a lot of good people in the class, some who will undoubtedly cross my path many times in the future. That may well prove to be the most important thing about the whole school. I think our class motto expresses my feelings about my fellow Ranger classmates: It takes a lot of spectacular preparation to produce spectacular results. From what I saw of them, I expect some pretty spectacular results.

I encountered things in the training that I hadn't before - not many, but some. I didn't become an expert on anything, but - this was pretty well the theme of the school - I learned where to go to find the answer. I became certified in more types of environmental education than you can shake a stick at - Certified Intrepretive Guide, Project WET, Project WILD, Project Learning Tree, Leave No Trace... I don't know what all. I think the many dozens of lesson plans included in the program manuals will come in very handy.

We did major projects at my park (rebuilding the playground) and at another one nearby (blazing a new walking trail where one had never existed). I got to drive a Marooka all day - hauling a twelve foot bridge section and several loads of gravel. (That was fun.)

All in all - it was worth the effort. It didn't take four weeks of school for me to know that I work for an outstanding agency with some fantastically talented individuals - I already knew that. And, I already knew that I worked in one of the most beautiful parts of my state. (I enjoy telling people that I get paid to do what they pay to do.) I just didn't expect that I would enjoy the camaraderie as much as I did and I didn't expect the quality of the training. I have had some dull in-service training in my time and that's what I expected.

I was wrong about that.

However, all things considered, I am still much like the little boy on his return from summer camp, who said, "I'm so glad I'm home, I'm glad I went."

Saturday, January 29, 2011

Bad Guys' Cars Break Down, Too.

Thirty years ago, Dave Smith - who was assigned to the Arizona Department of Public Safety's Training Division - created the character of J. D. "Buck" Savage, a caricature of a inept, unsafe, but nevertheless rather egoistical police officer. Still a popular part of police training, "Buck's" pompous officer safety videos demonstrate exactly the wrong way of doing things.

In the following video. "Buck" totally misses numerous indications that the damsel in distress he is assisting is not what she seems.

Buck does get one thing right: Bad guy's cars break down, too.

Bad guys also go camping.

Thursday, January 27, 2011

On leading... and being followed

Lacking the police authority to compel someone do something, how does a Ranger ensure that they do? I'm not going to get into Voluntary Compliance or The Authority of the Resource - that really isn't what I'm referring to. Remember, this blog pertains to the topics taught to police officers, that would be of great value to civilian Rangers, except we never hear about them.

One of my favorite quotes is from Atlas Shrugged, by Ayn Rand. Well into the book, Dagney Taggert, who is Vice President of a railroad, places a man named Jeff Allen in charge of a disabled train. When he asks who he is that people would obey him, she tells him, "They’ll obey anybody who expects obedience."

I believe that the author hit on one of the ultimate truths of leadership, and am astounded that it is seldom quoted in that context. If you arrive on the scene of an incident - perhaps an emergency requiring decisive action - expect obedience. That's not the time to sidle up to somebody and make small talk about his dog. Tell - don't ask.

Expect obedience and you'll get it.

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Can You Survive...

Can you survive all night, in what you are wearing now? Or at least, what you wear on patrol?

If you responded to an incident in a remote tract of your park, and had to flee on foot, could you make it through the night in your uniform? There is no question that I have enough clothing with me in the truck; I could make out pretty well in any weather we are likely to experience in my area. I wouldn't like it, but I could do it.

But that's not the poiint - the question is, could I make it wearing only what I would likely be wearing when I was responding to the call? At the moment, it is dark, 41 degrees, and there is a light rain, mixed with sleet. The ground is muddy and everything is wet. It would be uncomfortable, at the minimum. Two days ago, it was eighteen degrees and blowing, and the conditions were well into the life threatening realm.

Think about this the next time you are on patrol. Don't just wear enough to be comfortable - wear enough to survive.

Violence Against Police Officers

As of this time, eleven police officers in the United States have been killed in 2011. That's almost one per every two days. "We don't have any data, but there seems to be a type of criminal out there looking to thwart authority," said Detroit Police Chief Ralph Godbee.

Think about it. Who is the authority in your park? Could it be..... you? The unarmed Ranger working alone, with often unreliable communications and help miles away?

The best advice I can give you is:
  • Be prepared for anything.
  • Back down, back up, and leave when things get dicey.
  • Pay attention to the hair standing up on the back of your neck.
  • Critique every confrontation or dangerous situation you have; what could you have done differently?

Being a Ranger is often fun, frequently rewarding, sometimes exciting, and occasionally dangerous. At least, it's a living.

But, as 'The Outlaw' Josey Wales said:  'Dyin' ain't much of a living, boy.'

Monday, January 24, 2011


Maybe not static. Maybe, in today's digital age, just nothing.

You are out in the boonies. There is a compelling reason to talk to somebody by phone or hand held radio, but you can't quite reach them. With a digital phone, you just won't hear anything - same for a digital 800 MHz radio. With an analog radio, you might just hear static or maybe the repeater audio, filled with noise. Just not good enough to use.

This might work; it has worked for me.

Stand on the runningboard of your patrol vehicle and put the radio close to the center of the steel roof (not a convertable top or fiberglass roof of some kind - just metal) and try transmitting. (With your cell phone, move it around to see if you can pick up more 'antennas.') Most probably, you will be able to cover more distance on both receive and transmit. Maybe not enough, but it might just work.

I have been able to transmit through a repeater about thirteen miles away using just 1/4 watt, when I couldn't hit it at all merely holding the radio in my hand.

Other thoughts that will make a difference are:
  • Both of the radio antennas need to be oriented vertically, not at opposite angles. One radio with a vertical antenna and one held sideways can result in a loss of 90% or more effective signal.
  • Don't stand close behind a building or big truck.
  • If you are behind a tall hill, move farther back; the signal experiences a 'radio shadow' close behind an obstacle.
  • Don't be cute - don't hold the radio upside down, with your hand on the antenna.
  • Keep the radio away from your body. (By the same token, you can use this method to help you find a transmitter by keeping it close to your body and turning to where you get the strongest signal.)
  • In an emergency - say you are injured and need assistance, for example - you may be able to get your message through if you have a touch pad on your handheld by using Morse Code. [You don't know Morse Code? Everyone knows ... --- ... means 'SOS.' If you are very lucky, someone will eventually ask, "Does someone have an emergency?" Switch then to the '1 beep for yes, two beeps for no' technique. It might work. Hopefully]
  • Move around. I have seen just a short distance - maybe two feet - make a tremendous difference.
  • Keep your battery charged but don't keep it on the charger all the time. If you don't use it often, charging for one shift a week is more than enough.

Friday, January 21, 2011

What's In Your Truck?

Too much.

I tend to accumulate things in my truck that I don't really need: leftover hardware, seldom used tools, and trashbags head the list. I want to make sure that I have what I need but I sometimes carry it to extremes, based on the theory of "I might need it."

I cleaned my patrol truck out today, and filled a big plastic bin with everything from three unmatched gloves, to a VHF marine antenna, to a gigantic pair of slipjoint pliers. Bur I left a lot in it, too. Things that I can't possibly live without:
  • A short D-handle shovel
  • A pair of jumper cables
  • An 'Indian' water tank
  • A 4 D-cell Maglight
  • A big first aid kit
  • CRC
  • Hornet spray
  • Chainsaw files, wedges, and holster
  • A hard hat
  • A picture card for interviewing non-English speaking victims
  • A hatchet
  • A pry bar
  • A cheap set of socket wrenches
  • A screwdriver with changable tips
  • A raincoat and rain pants
  • A fure extinguisher
  • A soft briefcase with park maps, self registration forms, rules and regulations, and hangtags
  • A clipboard with 'courtesy notices' and waivers for jumpstarting vehicles
  • A 12 to 110 volt ADC-AC 350 watt inverter
  • A plug-in light bulb socket with bulb for checking circuit breakers
  • Sunglasses
  • A knit watch cap
  • A machette
  • 'Trash-free Parks' bags
  • 'Caution' tape
  • A 3/8" steel cable for towing
  • 2 cycle oil
  • A sheetrock bucket for holding trash
  • Spare change
  • Several assorted magnets
  • Nylon twine
  • 1/4" rope
  • 1/2" rope
  • A vertical level for setting posts
  • Trash bags
  • Several rolls of toilet paper
  • Keys to everything
  • Florescent plastic surveyer's tape
  • 'Mojo' granola bars
  • Decking screws
  • Yellow and white striping paint
  • Bott's Dots the snow plow knocked loose
I could have forgotten something.