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Fort Casey park ranger with job in jeopardy nabs suspect

A veteran Fort Casey State Park ranger who may be out of a job next month made an important arrest this week.

Ranger Jim Spaulding was on patrol at Keystone Spit Monday at about 1:35 p.m. when he came across a man who appeared to be illegally taking natural resources from the area. After checking his identification and doing a quick background check, it turned out he had a felony warrant out for his arrest.

Spaulding called for backup and with the assistance of Park Manager Ken Hageman, also a ranger, the man was taken into custody. He was later transported to the jail in Coupeville by Island County Sheriff’s deputies.

According to Spaulding, arrests of wanted felons is not common among rangers though park rangers are fully commissioned law enforcement officers with the power to make arrests and carry a firearm.

Like regular police, their charge includes fighting crime and keeping the public safe. And Keystone spit can be a wild place at times, he said.

“All kind of crazy things happen on that spit and rangers are often there to handle it,” Spaulding said.

Last year, the state Legislature approved a plan to make Washington State Parks self supporting by 2012 through the implementation of the Discovery Pass. But the pay pass isn’t bringing in the revenue that had been hoped for and the state agency recently announced significant staff cuts.

In all, about 160 employees received notices that their jobs are at risk. That works out to about 120 park personnel --- about 100 rangers --- and about 40 agency administrators. Although Spaulding has been a ranger for 21 years, 12 of which have been spent at Fort Casey, he’s one of the rangers who received a notice.

Given his recent arrest of a wanted felon, Spaulding and Hageman worry how the loss of officers at state parks will affect the safety of both the public and fellow rangers. With one less person on patrol, people like the man arrested Monday might be missed. Officers may also find themselves in dangerous situations by themselves.

“If I wasn’t there, he wouldn’t have had anyone for backup,” Hageman said. “It’s certainly an officer safety problem.”

 

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