Saturday, July 28, 2012

Final Weeks at Prince William Forest Park

The past few weeks at Prince William were full of many more great opportunities to learn.  I spent most of this time doing ride alongs at the park with rangers, as well as having a chance to spend a day with a ranger at both Manassas National Battlefield and Fredericksburg and Spotsylvania National Military Park.  Furthermore, I was able to gain more insight into the operations of the United States Park Police, riding along with them on a Friday night at District Three in Rock Creek Park.  Manassas was an interesting experience, as the park was larger than I originally thought, and I learned of the many trails and gravel roads that need to be patrolled.  Additionally, we did some patrol on these trails with an off-road vehicle, which are not easily accessible in the ranger’s vehicle.  I also learned about the horseback patrol they do at that park, and one ranger showed me how he takes care of and gears up the horses each time he takes them out on patrol.  When I rode along at Fredericksburg, it was much different from Manassas even though both are battlefields.  The set up of the park was fascinating too, with several different park units, Chancellorsville Battlefield, Wilderness Battlefield, and Spotsylvania Battlefield, in addition to Fredericksburg, being some what distant from each other, but a couple rangers showed me each one and the park’s jurisdiction.  At Fredericksburg, I did some traffic enforcement with one ranger who used a LIDAR (Light Detection and Ranging) unit and explained to me how it works.  I thought it was great experience to have a chance to do a ride along at each of these Civil War battlefields and compare a shift there to one at Prince William Forest Park. 
            I was very glad to have another opportunity to ride with the U.S. Park Police in Washington, DC.  Last summer I spent a shift in District One, and I really enjoyed having the chance to see how enforcement operations work in another district and environment, in addition to seeing what types of crimes and violations they deal with in that area.  The officer made a number of traffic stops for various violations, and learned more about the importance of positioning the patrol vehicle and well as its lights to increase officer safety and obtain and hold a position of advantage on the subjects in the stopped vehicle.  Later in the night, we were driving down a side street in a known drug trafficking area, and the officer quickly spotted an illegally parked SUV occupied by two men and initiated contact.  Eventually the officer ended up arresting one of them for drug possession, after seeing marijuana in plain sight in the vehicle and through plain smell.  He then subsequently transported the individual back to the station where I observed the booking process.  I have read a little about contact and cover, and it was interesting to see how it worked and was applied during a contact with multiple subjects.  The contact officer talked with the subjects, was the only one using the radio, and primarily the one searching the vehicle, while the cover officers watched over the subjects and made sure they did not present a threat to any officer.  Overall, this ride along was an awesome experience, as I greatly appreciate what these officers do. 
            This past Wednesday, a few of us ProRangers visited National Capital Region Headquarters and the Department of the Interior building in Washington.  At each location we had the opportunity to meet several of the leaders of the National Park Service, and it was great to speak with them and discuss the ProRanger Program and our experiences so far.  Afterwards, we drove over to the National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial.  This was very moving to see, and gave me sense of pride and appreciation for dedication of these officers who gave their lives for this country.  We looked up some of the U.S. Park Rangers and Park Police listed on the memorial and talked about the sacrifices they made.  This trip to Washington was great, as it was good to see other ProRangers and meet some NPS officials, and visit the memorial.  Now onto leadership camp! 

Charles Papacostas 

                                                 At the U.S. Park Police Rock Creek Station

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