by Dave Waddell
Bidwell Park’s three rangers will begin carrying guns and taking their orders from the Chico Police Department as a result of a plan approved Tuesday night by the City Council.
The conservative majority of the council held sway in the 4-2 vote, with council members Ann Schwab and Randall Stone in the minority and Karl Ory absent.
“You can’t convince me this is anything but a revenue grab for the Police Department from the Public Works Department,” Stone said. “The park is the perpetual whipping boy … to placate a Police Department that needs to grow.”
Councilor Reanette Fillmer, while discussing increased dangers in the park, surprised some at the meeting by announcing that “now rape is a non-violent crime in the state of California.” (Rape by force has been and continues to be a violent felony in this state, according to the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation.)
The Bidwell Park and Playground Commission previously recommended that just two of the rangers be converted to “sworn, armed” rangers, while the third remain a “non-sworn” ranger leading educational and interpretative efforts in the park.
Members of the public spoke both in support of and against arming the rangers. In support was Dan Gonzales, who lives across from Caper Acres and said his teen-age son was recently assaulted. Gonzales said he’s afraid of guns, but feels the need now to get one anyway to protect his family.
Dave Waddell is news director at ChicoSol.