Armed park rangers coming to Kansas City’s green spaces

KANSAS CITY, Mo. -- The public safety committee Wednesday approved a plan to have armed park rangers patrol the city's green spaces and community centers. Supporters believe rangers would help make recreational areas safer.

Kansas City hasn't had rangers in its parks in about 30 years, but when kids get out of school next year, the city hopes to have six officers ready to enforce park rules and regulations.

And those rangers will be licensed by Kansas City police to carry firearms.

A retired police sergeant has been hired to lead the ranger program, and he assured council members he will be looking to only hire rangers who have police academy training and meet the same firearms qualifications police officers must pass.

Homicides have been reported in city parks, and the city hopes education and enforcement of park rules by rangers will help prevent violent crime from happening in places citizens are supposed to enjoy.

"We are hoping that our presence in the park will help out in that regard," said Jeff Hurley, park rangers supervisor. "Of course, the Kansas City Police Department, they do have other functions that don’t allow them to patrol in the parks as much as they would like, or as much as parks and rec would like."

Rangers mostly will be writing tickets for municipal violations, like riding an ATV or other motorized vehicle in a park, or dealing with issues caused by the homeless in the parks.

Kansas City parks are open from 6 a.m. to midnight and some on the council expect rangers now will be able to enforce that rule.

If approved by the full council, the city is expected to begin hiring five more rangers in the spring, having them in uniforms and patrol cars ready to work by Memorial Day. Those officers will be scheduled to respond to complaints in any park up to 21 hours a day.