National Park Service Law Enforcement Rangers

National Park Service Law Enforcement Rangers or United States Park Rangers are uniformed federal law enforcement officers with broad authority to enforce federal and state laws within National Park Service sites. The National Park Service commonly refers to law enforcement operations in the agency as visitor and resource protection. In units of the National Park System, law enforcement rangers are the primary police agency.[1] The National Park Service also employs special agents who conduct more complex criminal investigations. Rangers and agents receive extensive police training at the Federal Law Enforcement Training Center and annual in-service and regular firearms training. The United States Park Police shares jurisdiction with law enforcement rangers in all National Park Service units, although this agency primarily operates in the Washington, D.C., New York City, and San Francisco areas.

U.S. Park Ranger
Badge of a US Park Ranger
Flag of the United States National Park Service.svg
Flag of the U.S. National Park Service
Common nameLaw Enforcement Ranger, Protection Ranger
MottoIntegrity, Honor, Service
Agency overview
Jurisdictional structure
Federal agency
(Operations jurisdiction)
United States
Operations jurisdictionUnited States
Legal jurisdictionNational Park Service areas
General nature
Specialist jurisdiction
  • Environment, parks, and-or heritage property.
Operational structure
HeadquartersWashington, D.C.
Sworn members1,776
Parent agencyNational Park Service
Child agency
  • Law Enforcement, Security, and Emergency Services


There are several types of National Park Service jurisdiction. Jurisdiction is set by the enabling legislation for each individual unit of the NPS and is considered part of the Special Maritime and Territorial Jurisdiction of the United States. Law enforcement on NPS lands with exclusive jurisdiction is solely conducted by NPS Law Enforcement Rangers or the US Park Police. Many NPS units have concurrent jurisdiction and share law enforcement authority with their state and/or local county law enforcement agencies. Some National Park Service units have proprietary or partial jurisdiction where law enforcement authority for certain serious incidents lies with the state or county.[2] Most NPS units have memorandums of understanding with outside law enforcement agencies, so that policies are in place when and if outside agency assistance is needed.

Laws enforcedEdit

Generally speaking the laws enforced on NPS lands are covered in Title 36 Code of Federal Regulations. The NPS also enforces United States Code. Title 16 of the United States Code, Title 18 of the United States Code and Title 21 of the United States Code are enforced most commonly. The National Park Service generally also has the authority to enforce any state law not covered already by federal laws under the Assimilative Crimes Act, 18 U.S.C. § 13. However, by policy the National Park Service cannot charge violators with a state offense that has a harsher penalty than an equivalent federal law already on the books. Commissioned National Park Service employees must follow all policies outlined in DOI reference manuals and directors orders in performance of their duties.[3][4]

Law Enforcement OperationsEdit

Law enforcement rangers and special agents enforce federal laws and regulations governing NPS lands and resources. These personnel can also enforce some or all state laws on NPS lands. As part of that mission, LEOs carry firearms and defensive equipment, make arrests, execute search warrants, complete reports and testify in court. They establish a regular and recurring presence on a vast amount of public lands, roads, and recreation sites. The primary focus of their jobs is the protection of natural resources, protection of NPS employees and the protection of visitors.[5][6] To cover the vast and varied terrain under their jurisdiction, NPS employees use numerous types of vehicles, horses, aircraft, UTVs, ATVs, snowmobiles, dirt bikes and boats.[7]

Other dutiesEdit

  • Emergency medical services: rangers are often certified as wilderness first responders, wilderness emergency medical technicians or paramedics. Rangers operate ambulances and respond to medical incidents ranging from bumps and bruises to heart attacks and major trauma.
  • Firefighting: rangers are often the first to spot wildland fires and are often trained to fight wildfires; in some parks, rangers also carry out prescribed fires and fight structure fires.
  • Search and rescue: the wilderness aspect of many areas of the National Park System offers unique natural hazards for visitors. Search and rescue trained rangers help visitors with injuries or illnesses suffered in remote wilderness areas or who become stranded in technical environments like swift water and high angle rock. These rangers are often expert climbers, boaters, or managers of the Incident Command System. Searches can range from children who wander away from Visitor Centers to expert climbers who suffer a major accident while climbing.

Special agentsEdit

Special agents are criminal investigators who plan and conduct investigations as part of the Investigative Services Branch (ISB) concerning possible violations of criminal and administrative provisions of the NPS and other statues under the United States Code and/or Code of Federal Regulations. Special agents can be uniformed or plain clothes officers.[8] Special agents often carry concealed firearms, and other defensive equipment, make arrests, carry out complex criminal investigations, present cases for prosecution to U.S. attorneys, and prepare investigative reports. Field agents travel a great deal and typically cover several NPS units and several states. Criminal investigators occasionally conduct internal and civil claim investigations.[9]


There are different types of law enforcement employees including Type I (permanent) and Type II (seasonal) law enforcement rangers and special agents. Type 1 Law Enforcement Rangers and special agents receive their training through the Federal Law Enforcement Training Center (FLETC) Brunswick, Georgia, where they attend a lengthy and rigorous law enforcement training program. The basic training for Law Enforcement Rangers is 83 training days under the Land Management Police Training program (LMPT).[10] Once graduated the Law Enforcement Ranger is then assigned a field training park and upon completion returns to their duty station. Type II (seasonal) law enforcement rangers receive their training through the FLETC-accredited Park Ranger Law Enforcement Academy at seven colleges throughout the country.


The United States Office of Personnel Management provides the following guidance concerning education requirements for all park rangers:

Undergraduate and Graduate Education: Major study -- natural resource management, natural sciences, earth sciences, history, archeology, anthropology, park and recreation management, law enforcement/police science, social sciences, museum sciences, business administration, public administration, behavioral sciences, sociology, or other closely related subjects pertinent to the management and protection of natural and cultural resources. Course work in fields other than those specified may be accepted if it clearly provides applicants with the background of knowledge and skills necessary for successful job performance in the position to be filled.

Line of duty deathsEdit

Since 1913, 41 Law Enforcement Rangers have been documented by the United States Department of the Interior to have been killed in the line of duty.[11] According to U.S. Department of Justice statistics, National Park Service Law Enforcement Rangers suffer the highest number of felonious assaults, and the highest number of homicides of all federal law enforcement officers.


  1. ^ "54 U.S. Code § 102701 – Law enforcement personnel within System". LII / Legal Information Institute. Retrieved 2019-12-31.
  2. ^ "18 USC § 7 – Special maritime and territorial jurisdiction of the United States defined | Title 18 – Crimes and Criminal Procedure | U.S. Code | LII / Legal Information Institute". Retrieved February 28, 2013.
  3. ^ "Director's Orders and Related Documents/NPS Office of Policy". Retrieved February 28, 2013.
  4. ^ "NPS Director's Order 9: Law Enforcement Program". March 23, 2006. Retrieved February 28, 2013.
  5. ^ "16 USC § 1a–6 – Law enforcement personnel within National Park System | Title 16 – Conservation | U.S. Code | LII / Legal Information Institute". Retrieved February 28, 2013.
  6. ^ "18 USC § 13 – Laws of States adopted for areas within Federal jurisdiction | Title 18 – Crimes and Criminal Procedure | U.S. Code | LII / Legal Information Institute". Retrieved February 28, 2013.
  7. ^ rwcar4. "Police Cars". Retrieved February 28, 2013.
  8. ^ "Investigative Services (U.S. National Park Service)". Retrieved 2018-11-28.
  9. ^ "US Office of Personnel Management" (PDF). Retrieved December 31, 2013.
  10. ^ "Land Management Police Training | FLETC". Retrieved 2020-01-01.
  11. ^ "Photo Gallery (U.S. National Park Service)". Retrieved 2020-01-01.