NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) — The city has pushed back against Park Enforcement Patrol officers who are asking for guns, saying it is not necessary.
The call for the city to give the park officers guns came in the wake of a violent stabbing rampage last week that injured five people -– including a toddler, WCBS 880’s Jim Smith reported Sunday.
CBS 2 Investigative Reporter Tamara Leitner reported Monday that some officers said they would be much better off if they were armed.
“You never know what you’re going to come across,” said former Parks Enforcement Sgt. Marlena Giga, who spent 10 years patrolling the city’s parks. “There were definitely times that I would have liked to have had a firearm dealing with emotionally disturbed people in the park.”
Parks Enforcement Union Local 983 president Joe Puleo said officers are at a disadvantage.
“Usually we’re the first responders, because we’re there,” Puleo said. “Many times, these people have knives, razorblades, even firearms and we’ve just been fortunate, But it’s just a matter of time before our luck runs out.”
Park rangers have the same authority as New York City police officers. For the last 30 years, they have patrolled thousands of square acres of city parks. They patrol on foot and horseback and are outfitted with vests, mace, and batons.
But they do not carry guns, and some parkgoers said Monday that they would prefer to see it stay that way.
“Absolutely not,” said Joe Ulan of the Upper West Side. “The whole image is one of serenity and peacefulness. And I haven’t seen any occasion I’ve been coming into the park 40 years, and I haven’t seen any occasion for it.”
“Not a good idea,” added Rich Belli of the Upper West Side.
A Parks Department representative argued Monday that guns are not necessary for the officers.]
“The NYPD is the City’s primary crime fighting agency. PEP officers focus on enforcing the rules and regulations of the Parks Department, which are primarily quality of life issues,” the representative said in a statement.
John Jay College of Criminal Justice professor Robert McCrie agreed that it is not necessary for the officers to be armed.
“It’s not necessary to carry a gun to be an effective law enforcement officer,” he said.
But Geoffrey Croft, head of New York City Park Advocates, argued that public safety is at risk if PEP officers are not armed.
“They’re not trained and given the proper equipment to do their jobs so it affects the public, and puts them in jeopardy,” Croft said.
PEP officers learn defensive tactics during a 10-week training academy – which includes hand-to-hand combat and take-down maneuvers.
Local 983 officials said they will move forward and try to gain legislative support for their officers to carry guns.
This past Tuesday, Julius Graham, 43, was arrested after the stabbing incident near Riverside Drive in the west 60s.
Police said Jessica Lipps, 32, was attacked. James Fayette, 34, was slashed, and his 18-month-old son, Luke, also had his left arm slashed. Ben Loehnen, 35, was stabbed in the abdomen, and Deanna Koestel, 36, was stabbed in the back while jogging.
Graham, who is believed to be emotionally disturbed, was finally subdued when a witness, Thomas Ciriacks, tackled him to the ground.
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