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Michigan State Police are investigating an alleged assault on a female park ranger Saturday night as she was attempting to lock a bathroom on Belle Isle.

It was 9:30 p.m. when the ranger, a Michigan Department of Natural Resources employee, went to lock the men's restroom at Strand and Woodside.

At that moment, a man walked around her, trying to get into the bathroom. The ranger told him the bathroom would be closed.

They argued, and the ranger told the man he needed to leave, at which point he allegedly pushed her and muttered something about the woman's "white privilege," then left the area, then left the island altogether.

Police describe the suspect as a thin black male, approximately 6 foot 2 inches, wearing a short-sleeved shirt with black shorts. 

Saturday's incident came as Michigan's park rangers are pushing for the right to protect themselves at work with guns and bulletproof vests, and be given access to law enforcement databases to quickly conduct background checks on unruly park visitors. 

Michigan has 320 state park officers who are equipped with pepper spray, batons and handcuffs. The state has about 220 conservation officers, who are allowed to carry guns, said Ed Golder, spokesman for the department of natural resources. Park officers only receive seven weeks of training while conservation officers undergo 22 weeks of training from the Michigan State Police, he said.

Park officers and conservation officers monitor the state’s 103 state parks, 134 state forest campgrounds and a 12,000-mile trail system. The park system gets about 27 million visitors annually.

 

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