What is the US Parks Police?

People looking into a criminal justice career might not think of it, but US Park Service Police operate within US state, national, and municipal parks, acting as the primary law enforcement of the park service.  While there can be a lot that goes into both the application and training processes, being a US park police officer can be very rewarding, with room for growth and purpose both personally and professionally.  Learn what it takes to become a US park police officer–they are highly motivated individuals, with good moral character and inner self-respect, aiming to protect the communities that make up and surround US parks, as well as visitors looking to interact with public lands. 

There are many, many different potential locations for a position with the US Park Service Police.  Most parks have their own law enforcement (that is, the US Park Service Police), but locations that are filling squads can change from season to season.  All successful applicants first attend an 18 week (paid) Academy in Georgia, followed by a field training program in Washington D.C., before final assignments are made.  When making the decision to apply, common questions revolve around what do park police do.  A park police job description can be found below, as well as the answers to several other common questions.  

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US Park Police Job Description 

Officers in the US Parks Police provide all law enforcement services within the park jurisdiction.  This generally includes prevention, detection, and investigation of any and all criminal activity that falls within the park in which an officer works.  On a daily basis, this can cover everything from highway patrol to foot patrol to crime patrol and other specialized units.  Applicants can choose to work in any of these units–K9, mounted, aviation, marine, and so on, with room to work in more than one throughout a career.  The position can be very mobile–with districts based in many cities across the country.  Additionally, working with the US park police qualifies as a federal employment, meaning officers qualify for comprehensive benefits packages. 

US Parks Police: What do they Do? 

In addition to standard law enforcement, answering the question “What do park police do?” can generally be summed up with assisting the visiting public with needs within the park.  This would be providing assistance, service, and information where necessary, consistent with duties relevant to the park service.  Many locations have a variety of units; which one an officer is part of will change the day to day.  Mounted units may focus more on interaction with the public, while aviation units may will be used almost exclusively in emergency situations.  

What are the Job Qualifications? 

Some level of minimum experience is required to become a US park police officer, though it can be obtained in several ways.  Some examples are having worked previously on a police force or served as a military police officer, specialized in experience such as leadership ability, performed duties in criminal investigation, or worked in visitor protection and law inforcement in other state or national parks or recreational environments.  A high school diploma is required regardless, though successful completion of two years of higher education can substitute or supplement required experience.  

Other Requirements?

There are some other base requirements necessary for application.  US citizenship is required, and applicants must have 20/20 vision naturally or that is correctable, as well as a valid driver’s license.  There are also age requirements to become a US park police officer–applicants must be between the ages of 21 and 37, with some exceptions.  

All applicants who meet these minimum qualifications will have to successfully pass through several steps in the application process.  These include the Physical Efficiency Battery (PEB), a written exam and job compatibility analysis, go through a forms screening and background check, and complete a medical review.  The PEB is the most involved, with four separate components, as follows: sit and reach test for flexibility, bench press for strength, agility run on a standard obstacle course, and 1.5 mile walk/run for endurance. 

The next step–the written exam–consists of three parts: Name and Number Comparison, Reading Comprehension, and Arithmetic Reasoning.  After successful completion and review of these first steps, applilcants will be required to verify all necessary documents, as well as pass a background check.  The final step is to go through a medical evaluation at a Federal Occupational Health facility.  If selected for hire, orientations, academy, and training will follow.  

All positions with the US Parks Police can be very fulfilling, and some carry leadership potential, should that be on the career horizon.  On a daily basis, US park police both assist and engage with the public as well as act as law enforecement whenever necessary.  

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