Washington, DC — The officers of the U.S. Park Police lack the funding, force levels and equipment to protect the public, themselves and the national icons in their care, according to survey results released today by Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility (PEER). Surveyed officers also strongly disputed the competence and commitment of their agency’s leadership.
This new survey of line officers (rank below sergeant) was delivered to agency leadership last week by the USPP Chapter of the Fraternal Order of Police. That union’s online survey was completed by 179 officers, approximately half of the less than 400 in the total line force. Key results include —
- Safety. More than nine out of ten (94%) do not feel “the current staffing levels at your work site are safe.” Almost all officers (99%) do not believe that U.S. Park Police leadership is “doing the best they can to protect the public”;
- Terrorism. More than nine out of ten (96%) do not feel they “have the needed equipment to carry out your duties in case of a terrorist attack.” More than four out of five (85%) do not “think that our ‘icons’ are as safe as they could be”; and
- Leadership. Overwhelming percentages lack confidence in the current Chief of the Park Police (98%) and the agency’s “Command Staff” (95%).
Staffing levels for the U.S. Park Police are at a 20-year low and assaults against the remaining officers have reached an all-time high. Due to lack of funds, the U.S. Park Police has cancelled training classes for new recruits with no new classes scheduled for FY 2007 – meaning that force levels will fall even lower.
“These survey results are a desperate cry for help,” stated PEER Executive Director Jeff Ruch. “These beat cops put themselves on the line every day and their views should be taken very seriously.”
In a letter written to agency leadership on December 6, Jim Austin, the union president, gave a picture of the extent and some effects of funding shortages:
“All units within the Force have had their operations impaired due to the financial situation. Members of the Motorcycle Unit have purchased motorcycle parts out of pocket to keep their motorcycles running to meet their responsibilities… Members of the Canine Unit have purchased equipment out of pocket … One canine handler had to pay out of pocket fees for kenneling … Members of the HMP [Horse Mounted Patrol]Unit have paid out of pocket expenses to the furrier so the horses may be ridden on patrol.”
“When Park Police Chief Teresa Chambers raised these same concerns in 2003, she was silenced and banished,” added Ruch, whose organization is spearheading former Chief Chambers’ legal bid to regain her job. “Hopefully, the new leadership in both Congress and the Interior Department will now start paying some attention.”