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«Commanders Report: Pacific Southwest Research Station Nationwide Study General Technical Report PSW-RP-254 September 2007 Deborah J. Chavez and ...»

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Forest Service Patrol

United States

Department of


Captains and Patrol

Forest Service

Commanders Report:

Pacific Southwest

Research Station

Nationwide Study

General Technical Report


September 2007

Deborah J. Chavez and Joanne F. Tynon

The Forest Service of the U.S. Department of Agriculture is dedicated to the principle of

multiple use management of the Nation’s forest resources for sustained yields of wood,

water, forage, wildlife, and recreation. Through forestry research, cooperation with the States and private forest owners, and management of the National Forests and National Grasslands, it strives—as directed by Congress—to provide increasingly greater service to a growing Nation.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) prohibits discrimination in all its programs and activities on the basis of race, color, national origin, age, disability, and where applicable, sex, marital status, familial status, parental status, religion, sexual orientation, genetic information, political beliefs, reprisal, or because all or part of an individual’s income is derived from any public assistance program. (Not all prohibited bases apply to all programs.) Persons with disabilities who require alternative means for communication of program information (Braille, large print, audiotape, etc.) should contact USDA’s TARGET Center at (202) 720-2600 (voice and TDD). To file a complaint of discrimination, write USDA, Director, Office of Civil Rights, 1400 Independence Avenue, SW, Washington, DC 20250-9410 or call (800) 795-3272 (voice) or (202) 720-6382 (TDD). USDA is an equal opportunity provider and employer.

Authors Deborah J. Chavez is a research social scientist, U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service, Pacific Southwest Research Station, 4955 Canyon Crest Dr., Riverside, CA 92507, dchavez@fs.fed.us; Joanne F. Tynon is an assistant professor, Department of Forest Resources, Oregon State University, 107 Peavy Hall, Corvallis, OR 97331, jo.tynon@oregonstate.edu.

Cover photograph: The vehicle had been stolen in the city and burned in the forest.

Abstract Chavez, Deborah J.; Tynon, Joanne F. 2007. Forest Service patrol captain and patrol commanders report: nationwide study. Res. Pap. PSW-RP-254. Albany, CA: U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service, Pacific Southwest Research Station. 38 p.

This is the third in a series of studies to evaluate perceptions of USDA Forest Service law enforcement personnel of the roles, responsibilities, and issues entailed in their jobs. An e-mail survey was administered to the 79 Forest Service patrol captains and patrol commanders (PCs) across the United States. Seventy completed and returned the questionnaire. Communication with others in the Forest Service was important to the PC respondents, as evidenced by their efforts to communicate at group meetings, talking face-to-face with others, their use of e-mail and the phone, and being available to communicate. A major concern for the PC respondents was the shortage of law enforcement officers and forest protection officers.

Forest Service PC respondents ranked their highest job priorities as protecting National Forest System employees and forest users, followed by protecting forest resources and public property. Nationally, a successful program was characterized as one with sufficient resources that is understood by those engaged in or affected by the program, and one that is under good leadership.

Keywords: Crime and violence, law enforcement, forest visitors, successful management.

Contents 1 Introduction 1 Background 4 Study Objectives 5 Methods 7 Data Analysis 7 Results 7 Demographics 7 Background on Area of Responsibility 8 Enforcement Level and Cooperation 11 Roles 14 Existing Issues 17 Priorities 18 Customers 22 Natural Resources 22 Success Stories 25 Successful LEI Program 27 Other Comments 27 Discussion 29 Acknowledgments 30 Literature Cited 31 Appendix: Patrol Captain and Patrol Commander Survey Questionnaire Executive Summary This study is the third in a series of studies evaluating the perceptions of U.S.

Forest Service (USFS) law enforcement personnel. The ultimate goals of the work This study is the are threefold. First, the Law Enforcement and Investigation (LEI) studies serve as a third in a series of followup to a previous qualitative study to learn more about crime and violence on studies evaluating the national forests and grasslands, and the impacts on recreation visitation and man- perceptions of U.S.

agement of those national forests. Second, the LEI studies serve as a followup to a Forest Service (USFS) previous qualitative study testing the key characteristics of success in law enforce- law enforcement ment, measuring opinions about recreation visitor and public safety, and evaluating personnel.

impacts to natural resources. Third, the LEI studies serve to provide Credibility Through Accountability/Performance Accountability System data for LEI.

Specific research objectives were to:

• Develop, pretest, and administer a quantitative survey to gather information from patrol captains and patrol commanders (PCs) about crime and violence at USFS sites nationwide.

• Confirm what crimes and acts of violence are occurring, the extent of crimes, and the impacts they have on public land management and public safety.

• Ascertain whether PCs perceive that acts of crime and violence are changing, and, if so, why.

• Determine PCs’ perceptions of the impacts of crime and violence to recreation visitors and other forest users.

• Establish measures of law enforcement success.

• Identify successful LEI programs nationally, regionally, and locally.

• Test the key characteristics of law enforcement success.

• Identify additional successful strategies used by PCs to deal with crime in forest settings.

To obtain this information, an e-mail survey along with an endorsement letter from the Deputy Director of LEI was sent to PCs in the USFS. To begin, the PCs received an e-mail message. Of the 79 questionnaires sent via e-mail, 70 were completed and returned, for a response rate of 88.6 percent.

Most of the PC respondents are male, predominantly white, and many are several years away from retirement. There was some diversity evidenced by race and gender. They have been at their duty station long enough to speak with an informed institutional memory about their experiences. Their knowledge, expertise, and experience represent the best available data we have about some of the challenges PCs face on the job.

The PC respondents are responsible for a primary patrol area that totals a median 1.39 million acres, although the LEOs in their region usually patrol less than that. While on patrol, the most common task is public relations/education/ information, followed by issuing violations/warnings or performing investigations.

A major concern for the PC respondents is the shortage of law enforcement officers and forest protection officers. Most reported having cooperative law enforcement agreements with county sheriff’s offices, but, for many, their perceptions were that these services were not adequate in responding to or preventing crime. Opinions were mixed about whether PC authority and jurisdiction is adequate for what they believe is expected or demanded of them.

Those who were dissatisfied said that an outdated Code of Federal Regulations hampers their effectiveness to do the job, noted that they had to depend on others to enforce state violation codes, or felt that they should be deputized. A large proportion of PC respondents noted that they did not have adequate resources to do their jobs, with personnel and equipment topping the list of needed resources.

The USFS PC respondents ranked their highest job priorities as protecting National Forest System (NFS) employees and forest users, followed by protecting forest resources, and protecting public property. They believed that the NFS line officers with whom they most commonly interacted had a similar set of priorities.

Almost two-thirds of the PC respondents felt they had good relations and rapport with the line officers with whom they most commonly interacted. Most believed that LEI’s relationship with the rest of the Forest Service should be one of collaboration and teamwork. Most felt supported by LEI line officers, NFS line officers, or local NFS employees. Those who felt they were unsupported cited lack of resources (mostly funding) and a lack of trust or understanding of law enforcement.

Several types of crime are on the increase, according to PC respondents.

Dumping of household waste, criminal damage, and dumping of landscape waste topped the list, followed by shooting (indiscriminate), thefts of public property, thefts of visitor personal property, personnel threats, methamphetamine chemical dump, methamphetamine labs, road hazards, marijuana cultivation, and domestic violence. Murder, body dumping, rape/sexual assault, wildlife hazards, arson, suicides, weather hazards, drive-by shooting, and armed defense of forest products were thought to remain unchanged from fiscal year (FY) 2003 to 2004. More than one-half of the PC respondents said they were threatened or attacked because of their job. Most said this was a common occurrence.

Lack of adequate funding, management issues (such as good leadership), and occupational ideals (focus on quality) topped the list of priorities facing the law enforcement professionals, according to the PC respondents. Most believed that the NFS line officer with whom they most commonly interacted was in general agreement with their list of priorities.

The PC respondents viewed forest users (defined as forest visitors, the American public, and the recreating public) as their primary customers. They believed that forest users wanted to be assured of a safe and enjoyable experience while on the forest, and wanted conservation of the natural resources. About half of the PC respondents felt that recreation visitors were mostly safe from other visitors and mostly physically safe from site features, while about one-third noted that these conditions varied within the patrol area. The PC respondents nevertheless believed that recreation visitors were much safer from others and from site features compared to being in visitors’ own neighborhoods. The top types of crime or law enforcement violations that PC respondents said most commonly affected recreation visitors were urban-associated crimes (e.g., theft, weapons violations, and break-ins) and drug activity. In general, the PC respondents noted that in protecting forest users, they were hampered by a lack of resources (e.g., law enforcement personnel, equipment, and backup) and the patrol areas’ large size and remoteness.

Most PC respondents reported that the quality of the natural resources had declined during the time they worked there, as had maintenance of Forest Service facilities and developed areas. About two-thirds believed that the media portrayal of crimes against resources was mostly positive, whereas 8 in 10 noted that the media portrayal of fire crimes was mostly positive.

Half of the PC respondents volunteered law enforcement success stories.

The successes differed and included successes in solving crimes and getting convictions, good cooperation, proactive programs, and operations work. Almost half of the PC respondents described special policing programs that worked well.

These included cooperation with other law enforcement agencies, visible and concentrated patrols, community involvement, public education, and public contact. They measured their success by the positive perceptions held, or the lack of complaints made, by the public, NFS employees, and their cooperators, and by a reduction in violations. Programs that were less successful were thought to be so because of lack of support and too few officers.

A successful national program was characterized as one with sufficient resources that is understood by those engaged in or affected by the program, is A successful national under good leadership, and has a sufficient number of employees. Similarly, a program was characterized successful regional program was characterized as one that is understood by those as one with sufficient engaged in or affected by the program, that has sufficient resources, and that is resources that is supported and trusted. A successful local program was characterized as one that is understood by those understood by those engaged in or affected by the program and that has a sufficient engaged in or affected number of employees.

by the program, is under In examining the data for common responses across questions, we found that good leadership, and has one concern for USFS PC respondents was relationships within and outside the a sufficient number of USFS. Another common concern was having adequate personnel and equipment.


Natural resource protection was also seen as important. Safety of forest users, customers, and USFS employees was another concern. Urban-associated activities and drug activity were problematic and seen as on the rise. Current successes in law enforcement were described as successes in solving crimes and getting convictions, good cooperation, and proactive programs.

There are several ways to use the results of this study of PCs in the USFS.

The identification of issues, particularly issues that are consistent across regions, could be used to prioritize law enforcement efforts. The case studies of success indicated that focus on problem areas was important to overcoming the problems.

In addition, considering some of the successes that have occurred in combination with a focus on the characteristics identified as integral to a successful LEI program could identify priority focus areas for officers and leaders. This approach has some serious implications for budgeting and staffing. Some consideration might be made of the current allocation of resources and whether it is congruent with the issues identified by the PC respondents.

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