Hudson Park officers to get sensitivity, courtesy training
By Lincoln Anderson
Park Enforcement Patrol officers in the Hudson River Park will receive supplemental training to equip them to deal with specific conditions and complaints of park users that have arisen in the 5-mile-long park in the two years since it opened.
Peace officers with police powers though unarmed PEPs are contracted by the Trust, a state-city authority, from the city Parks Department. Their enforcement has on occasion generated complaints of heavy-handedness from dog owners, gays and, in one case, political petition gatherers.
At the Trusts Dec. 1 board meeting, Jim Koth, the Trusts vice president of maintenance and operations, said that the PEPs who are assigned to patrol Hudson River Park will now receive an additional 16 hours of training in addition to the eight-to-10-week course they take at the Park Enforcement Academy. Koth said eight PEPs newly graduated from the academy are receiving the special training on interacting with Hudson River Park users. The areas of instruction include conflict resolution; professionalism; sensitivity; courtesy; gang awareness; terrorism awareness; handling of suspicious packages; water rescues; and operation of auto vehicles, Segway scooters and bicycles.
Former Parks Commissioner Henry Stern, a Trust board member, asked if the Trust staff planned to have the PEPs focus specifically on improving interactions with dog walkers and dog owners.
The issue of dog walkers and dog owners should be treated as a category not under two or three [general] categories, offered Trip Dorkey, the boards chairperson, further suggesting that there should be a seminar for the PEPs devoted to dog walker issues.
Koth said dog issues are a compendium of a few areas including sensitivity training, but did not say whether the officers would receive specialized training regarding canine concerns.
Madelyn Wils, another board member, recalled her own experience when a PEP had spoken to her harshly when her dog strayed onto a park lawn. When someone barks out an order I had that happen to me when I had a dog, she said. It was not appropriate. PEPs should treat park users like their clients, Wils said.
Joseph Rose, a City Planning Commission member, added that PEPs should be trained not to be overzealous about minor things.
Julie Nadel, a Trust board member who heads the authoritys new committee on reviewing PEP behavior, said shes confident there will be improvements.
I expect things to be better not perfect, but really good, Nadel said.
Speaking later, Chris Martin, the Trusts spokesperson, said that any specific training relating to treatment of gay park users would be handled under general sensitivity training, which concerns dealing with people from different beliefs and walks of life. As to whether the PEPs currently assigned to the park will receive the new training, Martin said they have already received sensitivity training.