A report from the National Academy of Public Administration released last Tuesday states the U.S. Park Police, the force tasked with patrolling national parks and monuments, are being asked to do too much with too little.
Closely trailing the controversial dismissal of Teresa Chambers — the chief of the US Park Police reportedly fired for discussing her agency's lack of manpower and resources with the media — the report concludes the operational duties of the US Park Police are unreasonable.
"The panel's basic conclusion is ‘You can't have it both ways,’" the report reads. "Given its heightened responsibilities after 9/11 for protection of the nation's most important icons and urban national parks, U.S. Park Police cannot be an effective guardian of urban national parks and also attempt to be a full service urban police force without a substantial increase in resources."
The report does not call on Congress to increase Park Police funding but rather it recommends that the government set realistic objectives for the agency. A spokesman for the Department of Interior, which heads the Park Police, declined to comment on the report or Chamber's dismissal, which is currently being disputed in court. Yet in a Friday interview, Chambers said she was fired for saying what the NAPA report confirms.
"It's precisely what I was saying about a year ago," she said. "The duties we took on after 9/11 grew but not the resources to meet them."
THE TOTAL STRENGTH of the U.S. Park Police nationwide now stands at 615 officers. In Arlington, the agency patrols the George Washington Parkway, the Lyndon Johnson Memorial Grove, the Robert E. Lee Memorial and Arlington House in Arlington National Cemetery. But unlike other federal law enforcement agencies, the Park Police was not merged under the direction of the Department of Homeland Security. Chambers said the Arlington's national parks and roadways are under-patrolled.
"All you have to do is look at the GW Parkway," she said. "Many nights, officers have to turn a blind eye to traffic violations and DWIs because that takes them out of circulation when something else happens," she said.
Repeated requests for an interview with Park Police officials in Arlington last week went unanswered. Chambers added the lack of patrols on national parkways leaves Washington D.C. vulnerable to terrorist attack.
"If you were going to smuggle a weapon into D.C., you would either bring it in on the Interstates or one of the five parkways surrounding the district," she said. "If we're going to prevent a major crime, not just a terrorist strike, we must have officers on the ground and they just aren't there now in the numbers we need."
Chambers added that she was surprised by her dismissal.
"Never in my wildest dream did I expect that I was to be anything but candid with the department and the public," she said.
But Arlington Police Chief Douglass Scott, who was interviewed by NAPA for the report, said the Park Police is capable of fulfilling its duties.
"Obviously, their duties have been raised since 9/11," he said. "But I haven't seen anything to suggest they are under staffed or that they don't have enough resources."
Scott added that the Arlington Police Department regularly assists the Park Police on emergency calls and it supports the agency during parades and other large-scale events.
"From what I can see, they have the personnel to patrol the areas in Arlington that they cover."
DURING A CONGRESSIONAL inquiry in March, U.S. Rep. Jim Moran said Chambers was fired from her post for "the allegedly egregious crime of telling the truth" and said her firing sends the wrong message to others in the federal government.
"The White House is telling them to keep their mouths closed and their eyes shut to the problems they see," he said. "The White House should not be applying this kind of pressure."
A statement from Moran's office following the release of the report, said Chamber's firing is currently under review by the Merit Systems Protection Board.
"We trust that a full airing of the issue will occur so that Teresa Chambers can defend her leadership as Park Service Chief."