Washington, DC — A new report confirms that new counter-terrorism duties for the U.S. Park Police are cutting into patrol capability on the major parkways and national parks in the DC metropolitan area, according to Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility (PEER). The report recommends either a significant increase in resources or cutting back the responsibilities of the U.S. Park Police.
The new report by the National Academy of Public Administration (NAPA) is entitled The U.S. Park Police: Aligning Mission, Priorities and Resources. NAPA finds that despite a large increase in responsibilities assigned to the U.S. Park Police (USPP) since September 11, 2001, the total number of Park Police officers has fallen. Moreover, as U.S. Park Police Chief Teresa Chambers publicly stated in interviews that led to her removal, NAPA concludes that new counter-terrorism assignments have come at the expense of traditional Park Police responsibilities for protecting lives on DC’s five major parkways and numerous national park units:
“The Panel’s most important message to all who make decisions about Park Police resource needs-including Congress-is that you can’t have it both ways. USPP cannot be expected to function as a full-service urban police department and guardian of national parks at current resource levels. If it is to continue to fulfill its current broad roles, it needs additional resources.” [Emphasis in original] In an earlier report, NAPA had recommended that the Department of Interior and National Park Service, the parent agencies for the USPP, refine the mission of the Park Police to set priorities for limited resources. More than three years after that recommendation, little progress has been made:
· Interior has nixed recommendations to pull the U.S. Park Police out of New York Harbor (the Statue of Liberty, Ellis Island, etc.) and the San Francisco Bay area (Golden Gate Bridge and National Recreation Area);
· Requests by Chief Chambers to end USPP responsibilities for Wolf Trap, the performing arts center, or to scale down public celebrations on the National Mall were vetoed by National Park Service Director Fran Mainella, who also forbade Chambers from jettisoning any USPP jurisdiction; and · Meetings to refine the USPP mission have not resumed since Chief Chambers was placed on administrative leave back in December 2003. In addition, the NAPA team that compiled the report was denied permission to interview Chief Chambers.
“The Department of Interior put Chief Chambers in an impossible situation by blocking elimination of any patrols while denying her the resources to keep all of these new balls in the air,” stated PEER Executive Director Jeff Ruch, whose organization is leading Teresa Chambers’ challenge to her removal in July for admitting to staffing and budget shortfalls in an interview with the Washington Post. “By stubbornly insisting that it can do much more with less, the Department of Interior is putting park visitors, parkway commuters and our national icons at risk.” The U.S. Park Police, the oldest uniformed federal police force inaugurated by President George Washington, now has wide-ranging anti-terrorism responsibilities, including activities as varied as evacuation planning for the Statue of Liberty to providing personal security for Interior Secretary Gale Norton and escort duties for Vice-President Dick Cheney.
Read the NAPA report, The U.S. Park Police: Aligning Mission, Priorities and Resources http://www.napawash.org/Pubs/USPP8-04.pdf or http://www.napawash.org/Pubs/USPP8-04.htm
Read prior NAPA report on the U.S. Park Police