Quin Hillyer discusses the increasing armed firepower of the federal government. Most people expect agencies like the FBI to be well armed for law enforcement purposes. But the Railroad Retirement Board? He reports that federal agencies far and wide now have armed agents, including the Small Business Administration. For what? To scare away phony 8(a) applications?? The United States Department of Education bought 27 Remington Model 870 12-gauge shotguns last year
I have no insight into what is going on in these particular agencies. But I can comment on another agency. Nearly every state parks organization has seen a proliferation of law enforcement titles among its employees. Seemingly every field employee nowadays needs to have a gun and a badge. Why?
Well, there are those who say that this arms race is necessary to keep the parks safe against some mythical crime wave. But I can say with some authority, since our company runs over 150 public parks across the country, that with very, very few exceptions, parks don't need this kind of on-site law enforcement support. Most problems can be handled with on-site customer service employees, with the occasional call the the sheriff if things get rough. In fact, customer service is actually improved without all the badges around. Rangers with law enforcement credentials tend to solve issues with their visitors by issuing citations. This is awful customer service -- I am sure McDonald's doesn't like it if someone messes up the bathroom or parks across two parking spaces, but you won't see them issuing citations to their customers.
The reason for this proliferation of law enforcement titles in parks is not demand for order, but incentives among employees. In most states, getting a law enforcement title in a parks organization gives one an automatic raise, participation in the far-more-lucrative state law enforcement pension plan, and training that can be valuable when one leaves the parks organization. Also, for some, it carries non-monetary benefits -- some folks think its cool to wield a gun and a badge.