The thin green line; Park Rangers to get cop-style training

Park ranger who caught pervert gets jerked around
Photo by Andrew Hinderaker / The Chief-Leader

City park rangers are getting stepped-up police training on the heels of an incident that led to a heroic park worker being reprimanded instead of lionized for busting a gun-toting pervert in Prospect Park.

The law enforcement course teaches urban rangers when to “effect an arrest,” how to spot suspicious behavior and what to do if someone has a weapon.

The classes, which began last week, come after Parks Department honchos reprimanded ranger Andrew Marsala for nabbing a man whom he spotted masturbating in Prospect Park.

The man was pleasuring himself near a playground — and later turned out to have a gun — but Marsala’s bosses told him that it was not his job to act like a cop.

Rangers — who can legally make arrests, but are encouraged to focus on park education — say they have for years asked for such classes, in the event that a dangerous situation pops up.

“The city hasn’t provided rangers with up-to-date training,” said Joseph Puleo of Union Local 893, which represents the rangers, adding that Marsala simply trusted this gut and acted quickly. “The city should have done more — he did nothing wrong.”

In the November incident, a woman spotted 53-year-old Glen Perousa allegedly masturbating near the Third Street playground in broad daylight.

She reported the incident to Marsala, who confronted Perousa, who then bolted into the woods. That’s when the brave ranger chased him down, grabbed him and arrested him.

The creep was later discovered to be packing another kind of heat — a loaded handgun — cops said.

After the ordeal, a City Councilwoman recommended that Marsala be honored — but Marsala’s Parks Department bosses scolded him instead, saying it’s not his job to enforce the law.

He remains on desk duty.

“They said, ‘Why didn’t you just call the police?’ ” Marsala told The Chief, a civil service newspaper. “I was like, ‘And let him get away?’ ”

But now the city has begun training rangers with those very cop-like enforcement skills — although Parks Department spokeswoman Vickie Karp refused to say why.

The course includes techniques such as “contact and cover” — in which officers team up to collar a suspect — along with conflict-resolution skills and “refresher course” on arrests, according to the city’s training academy staff.

Marsala would say only that his bosses have now instructed him to stay mum, explaining, “I’m not allowed to talk to the press” — but park advocates had plenty to say about the training.

“We’re happy it’s finally being done,” said Geoffrey Croft NYC Parks Advocates, explaining it also makes things safer for park-goers. “We’re lucky to have these rangers are out there … This guy put his life on the line.”

Reach reporter Natalie O'Neill at [email protected] or by calling her at (718) 260-4505.