State park officers file complaint against DNR alleging unsafe work conditions

Posted at 6:45 PM, Jul 05, 2018
and last updated 2018-07-05 18:56:38-04

LANSING, Mich. — A group of state employees filed a complaint against the Department of Natural Resources alleging a dangerous work environment.

State park rangers said the DNR needs to make changes before someone gets seriously hurt or even killed.

Erik Bailey, the head state park officer at Grand Haven State Park said, “The officers themselves do not have the equipment and tools and communications to be able to do the job.”

He said as a result, officers are “turning a blind eye, or having to… whether it’s narcotics, whether they’re not being proactive to actually taking care of the enforcement issues on the beach, they’re being reactive.”

Bailey’s been a park officer with the DNR for 14 years and said staffing is also inadequate.

“There are only 5 commissioned officers at that location, and on average, it’s 15,000 to 30,000 people at that beach on a busy day,” Bailey said.

Despite complaining to management at the DNR about the need he sees for more officers, bullet proof vests, the ability to carry firearms, and more training, he said concerns go ignored.

Bailey said, “The people who oversee and make the policies and procedures have no law enforcement background or knowledge of how and actually what goes on in the field with the officers.”

“The other disconnect is budget agreements,” he added.

Michigan State Employee Association president Ken Moore filed a complaint with the Michigan Occupational Safety and Health Administration (MIOSHA).

Moore asked, “With those deficiencies, how do you enforce the laws of the land?”

By phone, DNR spokesman Ed Golder said, “First of all, the safety of DNR employees and the general public is of paramount importance. So we’re constantly evaluating safety measures for our employees, including in consultation with those who do the front line day-to-day work.”

He said park officers are trained to have a close relationship with local and state police, and he said DNR conservation officers, who are armed, provide assistance as well. When it comes to other concerns, Golder said the department is always open to have a conversation.

Golder said, “It’s not a matter of funding at all. It’s a matter of where do we best have the right people in the right places?”

The DNR also said of the park goers surveyed last year and in previous years, 90 percent of the people reported having a highly satisfactory experience.

Union leader Ken Moore said he’s reached out to about 30 legislators and hasn’t gotten any calls back.