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.

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.

Thursday, January 20, 2011

This could be you.

Except that you aren't armed.

A routine traffic in Hamilton, Montana. An unprovolked attack on a State Trooper.

I know you aren't armed. I know you aren't supposed to make traffic stops. But what if the vehicle had struck a tree and you just stopped to check on the driver's welfare?

Rule 1 - Watch his eyes.

Corollary to Rule 1 - Watch his hands, he can't kill you with his eyes.

Rule 2 - "He who fights and runs away, lives to fight another day."

Corollary  to Rule 2 - You're not being paid to fight. Just run away.

When you arrive on the scene of something like a collision or a suspicious vehicle, notify your dispatcher of the location, description of the vehicle(s) and tag numbers. (Dispatcher? What's that? Or, in my case: "Why bother?") Or, at any rate, jot down the tag number on a pad in your vehicle.

I'm serious as a heart attack here, folks. The reason for writing the tag number down is, if you get shot, the police will have something to go on.

How's that make you feel?

It might not do you any good. But it might help catch the person who shot you.

At least, you will have a satisfied ghost.

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Plan Ahead

Yesterday, while patrolling the Park ('Patrolling' seems to be a bad word. 'Civilian Rangers don't patrol; they 'make a circuit.' Hogwash. I patrol.) I observed a pickup truck parked near one of the bathhouses. I knew the truck - the operator is an elderly man who comes to the Park every day and looks out over the water.

The problem was, the truck was not in the same place it usually parks. When I looked it over on my way to the marina, I couldn't see the operator, although the truck was running.

I turned around and stopped behind it, and then approached the truck from the left front, from where I could see the driver, slumped over the wheel. I approached from that angle for several reasons. Number one, I wanted to see if it was occupied. I wanted to see the position the driver was in (upright, lying across the seat, etc.). And I didn't want to scare him to death. [At night, I might well have approached another vehicle the same way, counting on my headlights in the driver's mirror to keep him from seeing me approach.]

I stopped a moment at the driver's door and confirmed that he was breathing, and at the same time, I ran through my mind various courses of action I might take if he wasn't. I do this a lot - I consider it a continuous course of training. One has the tendency to revert to training in the event of an emergency situation, and I am big on presenting situations to myself during routine events in an effort to keep myself sharp in the event it wasn't routine after all.

By the same token, I also review my actions after many routine situations: 'What if this or that had happened? What would I do then?'

As it turned out, the driver was asleep. I tapped on the window, waved at him when he stirred, and left. But I would have been ready if he wasn't.