County Executive Robert P. Astorino, joined by community leaders and clergy, recently made a specific pitch to minority youngsters in the county’s cities to consider applying for summer positions as a Seasonal Park Ranger (SPR) in the Westchester County park system.
“These are not only summer jobs,” said Astorino. “They can also be a first step to a career in law enforcement.”
At a press conference at Willson’s Woods Park in Mount Vernon, Astorino noted that many police officers in Westchester, including Public Safety Commissioner George N. Longworth, got their first exposure to law enforcement while working as park rangers. The experience enabled them to work side-by-side with Westchester County police officers and sparked their interest in public safety as a career.
Astorino added that the SPR program also provided an important bridge between communities and the police. “It’s critically important that our police officers reflect the diversity of all of our communities,” said Astorino. “By receiving Police Academy training and working alongside police officers, park rangers not only get experience and insights into law enforcement careers, they also help improve lines of communication between the police and the communities they serve.”
Uniformed park rangers work under the supervision of county police officers to maintain a safe and enjoyable atmosphere in the county’s parks. They assist park users, provide information on park rules and procedures, help in searches for lost children, perform basic first aid on occasion and make regular security checks of buildings and facilities.
To qualify, applicants must be a high school graduate, at least 19 years of age, a U.S. citizen, a resident of Westchester County and possess a valid New York State driver’s license by the time of appointment. Rangers can be rotated among different county parks around Westchester and must be able to get to any park regardless of its location.
Accepted candidates must attend a paid three-week training program at the Westchester County Police Academy in May, which leads to certification as a peace officer in New York State. Rangers work in county parks from late May through Labor Day weekend.
“These are highly competitive positions,” Astorino said. “We only hire about 65 park rangers each summer — and about half of those generally are persons who worked for us the previous summer. But I wanted to ensure that we are casting a wide net and to make certain that all communities are aware of the opportunity that exists.”
Isaiah Campbell, 22, of Yonkers, was employed several summers ago as a lifeguard at Saxon Woods pool in White Plains and observed park rangers at work. He decided to apply as an SPR the following summer and will be returning again this summer. Working as an SPR, he said, fueled his interest in a police career and he has taken several police civil service exams toward his goal of becoming a police officer.
“I might not have considered a career in law enforcement without having had the experience of working as a park ranger,” he said.
First-time park rangers are paid $14 hourly. Salaries are higher for those who have worked as a ranger for the county before. Applications are due by Feb. 27 and are available online.