Arming Government Agencies

The PJ Tatler has this bit on the arming of government bureaucrats:

Quin Hillyer discusses the increasing armed firepower of the federal government.  Most people expect agencies like the FBI to be well armed for law enforcement purposes.  But the Railroad Retirement Board?  He reports that federal agencies far and wide now have armed agents, including the Small Business Administration.  For what?  To scare away phony 8(a) applications??  The United States Department of Education bought 27 Remington Model 870 12-gauge shotguns last year

I have no insight into what is going on in these particular agencies.  But I can comment on another agency.  Nearly every state parks organization has seen a proliferation of law enforcement titles among its employees.  Seemingly every field employee nowadays needs to have a gun and a badge.  Why?

Well, there are those who say that this arms race is necessary to keep the parks safe against some mythical crime wave.  But I can say with some authority, since our company runs over 150 public parks across the country, that with very, very few exceptions, parks don't need this kind of on-site law enforcement support.  Most problems can be handled with on-site customer service employees, with the occasional call the the sheriff if things get rough.  In fact, customer service is actually improved without all the badges around.  Rangers with law enforcement credentials tend to solve issues with their visitors by issuing citations.  This is awful customer service -- I am sure McDonald's doesn't like it if someone messes up the bathroom or parks across two parking spaces, but you won't see them issuing citations to their customers.

The reason for this proliferation of law enforcement titles in parks is not demand for order, but incentives among employees.  In most states, getting a law enforcement title in a parks organization gives one an automatic raise, participation in the far-more-lucrative state law enforcement pension plan, and training that can be valuable when one leaves the parks organization.  Also, for some, it carries non-monetary benefits -- some folks think its cool to wield a gun and a badge.


  1. DHL:

    This development is part of the problem of lack of respect for law enforcement. The explosion of armed agents of the government brandishing a citation book, a baton, and unfortunately a gun -- instead of a friendly, non-confrontational chat -- has much of America sensitive to that power being wielded more and more capriciously.

    I have gone from a knee-jerk trust of law enforcement to its opposite!

  2. Chris K.:

    I just think its cool to wield a gun...

  3. marco73:

    Fiefdom building, plain and simple. There are so many federal laws out there, and so many agencies that enforce these laws, that each department believes they can justify armed officers. The US Marshall Service, or a local sheriff, should be able to provide an armed presence whenever you are going into a dangerous situation.
    Of course, if you have armed officers, you better use them or they will get cut at budget time. So expect more stories about Dept of Education raids, or SBA Swat teams.
    How soon before the good old Ford Crown Vic won't do for your armed officers? They will want to ride around in armored up Suburbans and Tahoes. Wait until you see an SBA tank. If its good enough for Sheriff Joe, it has to be good enough for the Feds.

  4. DirtyJobsGuy:

    My daughter worked last summer as a Seasonal Naturalist at a State Park in the NE. She made the usual $9/hr. But we have a publicly available database of State worker pay, so I looked to see who made the best pay in the parks system. You guessed it Law Enforcement. None made less than $90K/yr and most over $100K. Yes a conservation office got shot a few years back but for the most part its a pretty safe position. With OT and other multipliers the Police/Law enforcement types now own the treasury.

  5. Bob Smith:

    Also, federal law allows LEOs to carry concealed firearms in all 50 states, even in places where carry permits are impossible to obtain for the ordinary citizen, like Hawaii, California, New Jersey, Maryland, and New York.

  6. DJB:

    Forest Ninja? Library Ninja? Railroad Ninja?

  7. Val:

    There are also a lot of activists joining those ranks.

  8. Larry:

    Ahh, but your retired Caucasian 70 year old camp host/employee, born and raised in Kansas, just might be an active ROP terriost and planning on blowing up the campground to create mayhem during an invasion, so must be intimidated by a "Federal Park Police Person" who doesn't know which end of a gun the buulet come out of.

  9. Smock Puppet:

    More and more...

    Civil Servant == Civil Master


  10. el coronado:

    can't tell the lords from the serfs with the proper lordly accoutrements, now can you? besides, nothing quiets down uppity serfs better than a show of lethal force. i'm sure there's nothing to worry about, and this well all end well.

  11. bob sykes:

    Every time I read a story like this, I think of those two huge cops in NO/Katrina beating the crap out of a little old woman simply because she showed them the small pistol she owned for self defense. The Gestapo are among us now. There is no going back to legitimate, constitutional government.

  12. greg:

    I've had a gun pulled on me for having an illegal fire down in GW state forest in Virginia. The dude came up through the woods yelling at us with his gun drawn, and full bullet-proof vest. Sure, he could have just come up and asked us to put it out, but then I wouldn't have developed this healthy mistrust of law enforcement.

  13. TomG:

    This is timely, considering the recent discussion at The Agitator (Radley Balko) and on Hit & Run about how the Dept. of Education was behind a SWAT Team brandishing a search warrant and entering the home of a guy whose ex-wife (no longer living at that address) was in default on a student loan.
    Also, apparently the FDA sent armed agents on a "raw milk" raid in Pennsylvania (also via Hit&Run).

  14. ernesto:

    Key words DOE and an intregal SWAT team!! hello idiot alarm!!!!!!!when 45%.or more of grad are illeterate..where's education? get that gubment !!!..IPOD..WIC....More Kids.(does anyone work outsid PAK)?? can we unionize?? how dare ya ..kick yo door in! warrant.can yo spell that? worried? Buy a badge, blue shirt, belt and bully with tha one knows today!