Law Enforcement

Law enforcement flight in Voyageurs National Park

Law enforcement flight in Voyageurs National Park.

Law Enforcement is Essential in Achieving the NPS Mission. Commissioned employees perform resource stewardship, education, and visitor use management activities, including law enforcement. They provide for tranquil, sustainable use and enjoyment of park resources while simultaneously protecting these resources from all forms of degradation.

Learn more about U.S. Park Police.

Mammoth Cave Marijuana Detection

NPS Rangers are the Police Force in the National Parks

Like any police force in America, Park Rangers deal with similar levels of danger. Some jobs are located in areas where illegal and international smuggling activities take place in close proximity to the international border. In addition to the dangers one expects law enforcement officers to face, NPS Rangers also can run into hazards such as killer bees, snakes, scorpions, plants with stickers, or poison ivy and oak.

Rangers also work in close proximity with other law enforcement agencies such as the Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA), and Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), Texas Department of Public Safety (DPS), and other local law enforcement agencies.

Law enforcement aviation operations on occasion have special needs, for example, carrying weapons or canines on board aircraft. Additionally, missions can be conducted in a higher-than-normal risk environment where the hazards on the ground from potential gunfire and apprehending suspects may be greater than, or compound, the hazards associated with the aviation mission.

Specialized law enforcement aviation operations are often conducted in coordination with other-agency law enforcement personnel and aircraft. They may include:

  • Counter-narcotics operations
  • Surveillance of suspects or locations
  • Warrant service
  • Reconnaissance
  • Fire Investigation
  • Seizure and removal of evidence, contraband, and other property

Spotlight On—Law Enforcement Shorthaul & NPS

Law Enforcement Short Haul (LESH) is defined as the transport one or more Department of the Interior (DOI) Law Enforcement Officers (LEO) externally suspended below a helicopter for a short distance, for the purpose of tactical insertion into, or extraction from a crime scene.

Short Haul or STABO systems were pioneered by the U.S. Army Special Forces and the 1st Marine Division in the late 1960s in Viet Nam. The original Army device was a 100-foot rope with a loop tied in the end with a padded canvas seat. Later the system was redeveloped using individual nylon straps and a full body harness to extract small teams from areas where a helicopter could not land. The Marine system consisted of a system of web straps to accommodate a small team called a Special Patrol Insertion/Extraction System (SPIES).

three parek police get fastened into the training gear at a national park

Park Rangers participating in LESH training in California.

In the early 1980s, the technique was adopted and modified by a variety of law enforcement agencies for mountain rescue and law enforcement operations. A large number of military veterans who had been trained in this technique found their way into law enforcement careers; as a result, LESH was implemented into the law enforcement community, often being called by its original military name of STABO or SPIES Rig.

In the late 1980s, Hawaii Volcanoes National Park adopted a short haul program to raid widespread marijuana cultivations which were devastating the park. This program continues today under policy waiver, operating in conjunction with the Drug Enforcement Administration.

By 2007, Sequoia-Kings Canyon National Park added LESH to their existing SAR short haul program, using an exclusive use helicopter under policy waiver. This effort was necessitated by Mexican National Drug Traffic Organizations (DTO), which were similarly devastating areas of the park.

In 2009, recognizing the need to reduce risk while effectively inserting and extracting DOI law enforcement officers at an ever increasing number of marijuana cultivation sites on Interior and tribal lands, DOI began development of a law enforcement short haul policy.” From the DOI Law Enforcement Short Haul Policy Handbook