After several recent incidents at Michigan state parks, it has come to light that the park officers could better protect themselves, the park employees, and other visitors if they were armed with guns. As of now, the Michigan state park police only carry a baton, handcuffs, and pepper spray.
The 320 state park police officers rely mainly on their seven weeks of training to diffuse situations and protect themselves and patrons of the MI parks. The 103 parks that they serve receive more than 27 Million annual visitors. And while most visits include fun on the beach, kayaking, biking, hiking, and sunsets, the number of incidents occurring at these park is on the rise.
Incidents related to drugs, gangs, alcohol, riots, and assaults are a big concern for the state parks. Though some view these as isolated incidents, they have put people in the parks at risk and there is not adequate protection to handle such dangerous situations.
In 2017, there were 30 youths involved in illegal activity in Pontiac Lake Recreational Area and there was gang-related activity at the Grand Haven State Park.
Recent events, such as the 300-person riot that took place at the Grand Haven State Park, the assault of an officer at the Pinckney State Recreational Area, and the assault of a Belle Isle park officer, have created a stronger push for guns and tasers, along with protective gear, for the MI state park police.
Conservation officers have increased across the state parks in recent years. The officers go through more extensive training over a 22-week period and they are armed. Though helpful, these officers are not always present within the parks. Perhaps additional training is needed for the MI state park police, along with the right to carry guns.
Because it has been deemed a public safety issue, on June 29, The Michigan State Employees Association filed a complaint with the Occupational Safety and Health Administration, which is currently under evaluation. The issue has also been brought to the attention of Governor Snyder.