State police

A state park policeman is shown in this July 2018 file photo. State police have taken over command of park police. Watertown Daily Times

WATERTOWN — New York State Police have taken control and command of state park police, a decision made to ensure the highest level of safety in the park system.

Erik Kulleseid, commissioner of the state Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation, issued a memo recently saying state police would take control of park police activities effective Dec. 3.

“It is the undeniable and unfortunate truth of our day that threats to public safety at parks and public gatherings are becoming more sophisticated, complex and dangerous,” Mr. Kulleseid wrote in the memo. “As these threats increase along with our many calls for service across 250 state park properties each year, so does the responsibility of the State to strengthen its ability to prevent and respond to threats.”

Roughly 250 park police officers respond to around 40,000 calls each year, and there has been a 28 percent increase in park visitors since 2011.

Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo issued a statement last week regarding the command change.

“The current system is indicative of the mentality of the past and with this action we’ll be able to deploy state resources more efficiently and effectively and better respond to any threats to the safety of the 74 million people who visit New York’s parks and historic sites each year,” Mr. Cuomo said.

Existing park officers who are qualified and pass required exams can start to transition to state police if they choose to become applicants. Legislation will be advanced in the 2021 Executive Budget waiving the current age requirement to become a trooper, and amendments will be made to allow for age-adjusted fitness and vision norms.

Staff members who choose not to apply for the state police, or don’t meet the requirements, will remain as park police until alternative plans are made.

Johnson Newspapers 7.1

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