“Three months earlier, a National Park Service ranger named Robert John Mitchell had killed 25-year-old Gage Lorentz while he was driving through Carlsbad Caverns National Park, in southeastern New Mexico. Gage was unarmed, and the authorities had provided no clear answers to his family’s questions about how he ended up dead during a traffic stop.
While police agencies across the country have responded in recent years to calls for law-enforcement reform, that conversation does not appear to have generated a lot of self-reflection at the Park Service, according to current and former rangers. David Barland-Liles is a law-enforcement program manager at Effigy Mounds National Monument, in Iowa, who has been with the Park Service for 30 years. During an interview last fall, he told me, “What I hear is the National Park Service thinking that what is happening, that they are somehow immune.” Perhaps that helps explain a proposal briefly floated by the agency in 2018 that would essentially reduce training requirements for rangers. At a time when many police departments across the country were pledging increased training for officers, the advocacy group Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility (PEER) revealed that the Park Service was discussing a proposal that would have allowed many rangers to skip basic training at the Federal Law Enforcement Training Center (FLETC) in Glynco, Georgia, which instructs everyone from Border Patrol officers to members of the National Institute of Health.”