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United States Park Police Career Guide

United States Park Police officers provide law enforcement within parks under the jurisdiction of the US Department of the Interior’s National Park Service. The US Park Police consist of three divisions: Field Operations, Homeland Security, and Services. Park Police may also work in mounted units, patrol units, or traffic units. Their jurisdiction covers national parks and certain other protected lands.

United States Park Police Career Description, Duties, and Common Tasks

The US Park Police enforce state and federal statutes, conduct criminal investigations relating to criminal activity on park lands, and detain individuals suspected of or charged with offenses. Individual responsibilities are determined by the division of the Park Police to which the officer is assigned. The Criminal Investigation Branch (CIB) covers major crimes, special investigations, identification (processing evidence), narcotics crimes, and asset forfeiture. The Special Forces units are comprised of SWAT members, motorcycle units, mounted units, aviation units, canine units, and community relations and special events units. In addition to providing law enforcement services, officers oversee major events, supervise protests, and ensure the safety of park visitors.

How to Become a United States Park Police Officer: Requirements and Other Qualifications

To qualify for a position with the National Park Service, prospective Park Police officers must:

  • Hold United States citizenship
  • Be at least 21 years of age and not more than 37 years of age
  • Have 60 semester hours of college credit, or two years of active duty military experience with an honorable discharge
  • Have 20/100 vision or better in each eye corrected to 20/20 with glasses or contact lenses
  • Possess a valid driver’s license with a good driving record

All candidates must also pass security clearance.

United States Park Police Job Training

All officer recruits must undergo 18 weeks of basic training at the Federal Law Enforcement Training Centers in Glynco, Georgia. Training covers such topics as investigations, executing search warrants, making arrests, firearms, defensive tactics, intelligence for law enforcement operations, crime scenes, counterterrorism, interviewing techniques, ethics, and legal issues. Officers may undergo additional on-the-job field training in their state, working alongside experienced police.

Other Helpful Skills and Experience

US Park Police must have strong personal skills, be in good physical condition, and adhere to the highest level of integrity and honesty. Previous military or law enforcement experience is beneficial.

Examples of Possible Job Titles for this Career

  • Park ranger
  • United States Park Police

Career Opportunities and Employers

Park Police officers are employed by the federal government. Though regional and local offices are located throughout the US, the major administrative offices for the Park Police are found in Washington DC, New York, and San Francisco. The agency is a division of the Department of Interior, National Park Service and is the oldest professional law enforcement agency in the United States.

United States Park Police Salary and Outlook

The US Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reports that the average annual salary for fish and game wardens, who perform similar work to that of the Park Police, was $54,970 as of 2015.1 Employment of fish and game wardens and related occupations is expected to remain stable between 2014 and 2024.2

Frequently Asked Questions about This Career

What is the typical work schedule for park police?

Park officers generally work a full-time, 40-hour a week schedule. Travel is minimal, but scheduled hours frequently include evenings and weekends.

What benefits do park officers receive?

Benefits generally include health insurance, life insurance, sick leave, and paid vacation. Officers may also have public transportation costs subsidized and are eligible for the Federal Employees Retirement System.

What type of specialized units does the National Park Service deploy?

The Park Police has several specialized units, including aviation, K-9, Marine, and SWAT.

Is the job of a park officer physically demanding?

Yes. Park officers must be able to stand for long periods of time, run when necessary, lift heavy items, and work in all types of weather.

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References:
1. US Bureau of Labor Statistics Occupational Employment and Wages May 2015, Fish and Game Wardens: http://www.bls.gov/oes/current/oes333031.htm
2. US Bureau of Labor Statistics Employment Projections: http://data.bls.gov/projections/occupationProj