Seasonal Law Enforcement Training Program expands instruction

Seasonal Law Enforcement Training Program cadets near the Red Barn Gym.

When thinking about the nation’s majestic national parks, law enforcement might not be the first thing that comes readily to mind. Protecting and serving the hundreds of thousands of people and families that visit the parks every year and the natural resources they have come to experience and enjoy, however, is vitally important.

Temple University’s Criminal Justice Training Programs (CJTP) has been training professionals for nearly 50 years. In addition to Temple’s Municipal Police Academy and training programs for deputy sheriffs, state constables, school security staff and crime prevention specialists, CJTP offers the Seasonal Law Enforcement Training Program (SLETP), which is a key component of ProRanger Philadelphia, a partnership between Temple University and the National Park Service to train park rangers.

“We have substantially expanded our Seasonal Law Enforcement Training Program. It is a program open to anyone who would like to develop the professional skills and training necessary to protect and conserve a variety of resources in the National Park System,” said Anthony Luongo, Director of Temple’s Criminal Justice Training Programs and Associate Director of the ProRanger Program. “Most individuals start their careers with the National Park Service as seasonal employees. An applicant can’t even apply to become a seasonal law enforcement park ranger without SLETP certification.”

Temple University Ambler is one of only seven institutions in the country to offer SLETP while Temple is just one of two sites to offer the ProRanger program — Temple is the only university to offer both. Temple’s SLETP is a full-time, 18-week program that has been accredited by the Federal Law Enforcement Training Accreditation (FLETA) Board, according to according to Chris Willard, Assistant Director of Criminal Justice Training Programs and coordinator for SLETP who spent seven years as the Chief Park Ranger for the Chester County Parks Department.

“Recently, the SLETP curriculum has been expanded to almost 700 hours of professional instruction designed to prepare and enable students to obtain employment with the National Park Service,” she said. “Some of the other programs in the nation are offering the minimum required hours, but we’ve been ahead of the curve in terms of the depth and breadth of our program. We want to be able to provide additional opportunities and experience for our students.”

The curriculum, said Willard, places particular emphasis on visitor and resource protection, federal law and procedure, authority and jurisdiction, natural and cultural resource management, officer safety and survival skills, and physical conditioning, the latter of which “has always been a part of our curriculum even when it wasn’t part of the mandatory training.”

Upon successful completion of the program, students are awarded a certificate of completion from SLETP and the National Park Service-Law Enforcement Training Center (LETC). Applications are currently being accepted for the next student cohort, which will begin on Monday, August 15. Visit here to apply online. Applicants must be at least 21 at the time they complete the SLETP training, be a U.S. citizen, meet medical and psychological fitness standards and provide proof of medical clearance to participate in physical activities, among other requirements.

“The movement to expand the curriculum came as a result of a training needs analysis conducted by the National Park Service. They found a gap between the training that their permanent employees were receiving and the training of their seasonal employees,” said Luongo. “Based on their job functions and responsibilities, the determination was made that the skills and training needed should be the same since they are doing the same job. Our students will be better prepared for managing the resources of our national parks and communicating with a diverse group of visitors — they have more time to build their foundational skills and develop professionally.” 

According to Luongo,  the Seasonal Law Enforcement Training Program is comprised of both individuals seeking the necessary credentials to apply for positional with the National Park Service — many of whom are returning military or transitioning to new careers — and ProRanger Philadelphia students, who gain a significant advantage in securing National Park Service jobs by completing the training.

The ProRanger Philadelphia program has also recently gone through a full curriculum update designed to provide students with even more experience with the National Park Service prior to graduation. Just as the SLETP program is open to individuals of any professional background and interest that meets the requirements to apply, the ProRanger program is open to students from all majors at Temple. A post-baccalaureate option is also available.

In addition to coursework, students complete two summer internships, leadership training camp a variety of weekend training programs and activities and SLETP training, which is the final leg of their journey. Since its inception, the ProRanger Philadelphia program has enjoyed a 100 percent job placement rate for students that have completed the program successfully.

“The Temple students in the ProRanger program come from multiple disciplines and backgrounds — criminal justice, environmental science, anthropology, history, horticulture, film — which is what the National Park Service wants,” said Luongo. “Temple’s diversity and the strength of our academic programs, I believe, are the primary reasons the Park Service wanted to partner with us. Our students are culturally aware and interested in working in a variety of environments and protecting our national treasures.”

Willard said program instructors ensure that students are aware of “the awesome authority of enforcement that they have as park rangers, which they must balance with their duty to the community.”

“We emphasize enforcement through education,” she said. “We want our students to appreciate and take pride in the profession they are entering. We want them to realize the great responsibility they are being charged with as a park ranger. The program has been a terrific partnership — the National Park Service needs highly trained rangers and we are able to provide that training.”

According to Willard, instructors in the rigorous training program include a diverse team comprised of individuals from Temple’s Criminal Justice Training Programs, the National Park Service and other federal agencies.

“All of our instructors have been involved in law enforcement in some capacity, be it local, state, or federal. Temple has almost 50 years of experience in training law enforcement and the University administration has really been committed to ensuring the success of this program,” she said. “Our instructors mesh exceedingly well with the federal instructors and provide an amazing breadth of knowledge and experience for our students.”

SLETP is part of University College and is offered in cooperation with the Criminal Justice Training Programs, a division of the Temple University Department of Criminal Justice. CJTP has conducted professional training programs for a variety of criminal justice agencies and occupations since 1968. Today, more than 3,000 criminal justice professionals attend programs offered by CJTP each year including police officers, deputy sheriffs, state constables, legislative security officers, magisterial district court staff, school resource officers, park rangers and crime prevention specialists. Other activities include continuing education programs for agencies allied to the criminal justice system and the development of curricula including distance-learning and online classes.

For more information about the Seasonal Law Enforcement Professional Development Program or ProRanger Philadelphia, contact aluongo@temple.edu, cwillard@temple.edu or visit www.temple.edu/provost/university-college/sletp/index.html and www.temple.edu/provost/university-college/proranger.