Wednesday, April 23, 2014
PLACERVILLE, CALIFORNIA
99 CENTS

Forest cops heavy-handed

EDITOR: It’s a shame the El Dorado County sheriff had to strip Forest Service employees of state peace officer authority, but after numerous complaints of heavy-handed tactics by Forest Service law enforcement officers, the Forest Service left him no choice.

Local Forest Service officials were well aware of the abusive and unacceptable conduct of law enforcement officers on the Eldorado National Forest. However, since the USFS law enforcement program is run out of the regional office in Vallejo, local USFS officials lacked authority to change policy or remove personnel engaged in such behavior.

In recent years, the USFS law enforcement organization has been staffed with individuals with little or no background in Forest Service land and resource management or experience in dealing with traditional forest visitors. They lack any sense of the Forest Service culture of “Forest” and “Service.” The special agent in charge’s comment that “these are not rangers, but uniformed patrol officers with a badge and gun” clearly illustrates this lack of understanding. To most forest visitors (unaware of bureaucratic distinctions) Forest Service law enforcement officers are “Forest Rangers” just like armed National Park Service employees are “Park Rangers.” Unfortunately, these new law enforcement officers are now the face of the Forest Service.

Forest Service law enforcement officers are now trained as police officers with the latest police tactics and law enforcement equipment. However, they lack the experience, background, and demeanor to deal with forest visitors in a positive manner. They view themselves as “police officers,” but lack the perspective and understanding that not every forest visitor is a “bad guy.”

The Forest Service needs to completely overhaul its law enforcement organization with managers and supervisors who have some experience in resource management and possess an understanding that law enforcement is a support function to the Forest Service mission of land and resource management.

Until the Forest Service can regain the public trust, the sheriff should continue to withhold state peace officer authority.

GREG BARNETT

El Dorado Hills

Letters to the Editor

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Discussion | 10 comments

  • Phil VeerkampJuly 03, 2013 - 12:48 pm

    Thank you, Mr. Barnett

    Reply | Report abusive comment
  • James E.July 03, 2013 - 12:51 pm

    Wonder what happens when a forest cop and a sheriff's deputy meet in the woods and get into a debate about who has the authority? Shoot out?

    Reply | Report abusive comment
  • Vic SubiaJuly 05, 2013 - 2:49 pm

    USFS LEO's: Bring back the Forest Rangers who always smiled and were interested in making your visit to federal forests a fun and enjoyable experience.

    Reply | Report abusive comment
  • West End CynicJuly 05, 2013 - 7:39 pm

    What VIc Said. My childhood vision of forest ranger was the hat, the pickup and a shovel stuck into one of the holes in the bed. I support the Sheriff's actions

    Reply | Report abusive comment
  • Don YbrightJuly 05, 2013 - 8:25 pm

    I grew up in the Crystal Basin, not literally but spent a lot of time camping, fishing, 4X4ing and snowmoboling. I love what the Sheriff has done because hopefully it will bring the folks like Ken,Karen, & Jennifer back to life. This is and always will be everybodys land and the folks who have experienced the hostility of the "gun toting USFS cops", you know that they are are out of control.Of all the people that visit the El Dorado National Forest, the overwhelming majority are not law breakers. Keep this in mind next time USFS COPS.

    Reply | Report abusive comment
  • michaelkobusJuly 06, 2013 - 6:12 am

    Last December my son and his friend got his his vehicle stuck on Mormon Immigrant.It was a mechanical issue and was off the roadway not impeding traffic. Without cell service, snowing and getting dark,they decided to hike down the road. They came upon someone who was willing to give them a ride back to Pollock in the back of their truck. Just before they got to Pollock, an Enforcement Ranger pulled the vehicle over. The officer put my son and his friend into his vehicle and drove them to Sly Park Resort. He then gave my son a $300 citation for "blocking the right of way". He wrote a citation for a vehicle he had never seen and had no idea if it was "blocking the right of way." My son and I had to go to to Federal Court to appeal this ticket. The prosecutor dismissed the citation. 6 hours of my life I will never get back. What really upset me was that this officer was from Amador county and here he was in El Dorado. It was the same weekend were a man died in Amador County trying to hike from his vehicle, not more than 10 miles away from where my son was stuck. Just maybe had this officer been where he was suppose to be, in Amador county, not giving bogus citations, this officer might have found this man before he froze to death. What was interesting though was being in court and listening to all the charges. Example- Camping to close to a roadway, camping to far from a roadway, camping to close to a water source, campfire to close to combustible material. Discharge of a firearm to close to a roadway. On and on and on. These so called enforcement officers have gotten out of control.

    Reply | Report abusive comment
  • Jack MehoffJuly 07, 2013 - 7:51 am

    Unless you have had a run in with the USFS you have no idea what you are talking about they were abusive with the power they had. The Forrest belongs to the people not Special Interest groups or the Federal Government. The Forrest Does Not belong to Ranger Kenny Marcus.(needs to be Fired)

    Reply | Report abusive comment
  • Jim RiordanJuly 07, 2013 - 11:01 am

    Good job Mr. Barnett. I agree with Phil, Vic, Don and Michael. And I support Sheriff John and his decision . . . get these forest Nazis out of uniform and put real Rangers, you know, informative helpful and kind,like the ones we USED to know, back in the woods. And Jack . . . creative name but no, I won't!

    Reply | Report abusive comment
  • Ken SteersJuly 07, 2013 - 12:12 pm

    Jim, "Forest Nazi" is the perfect name to describe the detached, poorly trained, uneducated, out of control forest service of today.

    Reply | Report abusive comment
  • John ArenzJuly 10, 2013 - 10:52 am

    Couldn't agree more, Mr. Barnett...the LE side of the Forest has lost the long view. When you're a hammer, everything looks like a nail, and to these heavy handed forest cops everyone looks like a criminal. We just want to recreate and enjoy our forests in a reasonable common sense manner. Too bad the actions of a few give the whole agency a bad name.

    Reply | Report abusive comment
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