U.S. Park Police Struggle To Do More With Less
Top officials at the Interior Department need to clarify the mission and priorities of the U.S. Park Police, according to a new report by the National Academy of Public Administration.
“The current mission statement is very general and could apply equally to almost any police organization,” the report said. “Without clarity of mission and established priorities, issues of structure, function, and resource allocation cannot be effectively resolved, and managers cannot be held accountable for the proper discharge of their responsibilities.”
The Park Police, which consists of some 615 sworn officers and an annual budget of some $81 million, is responsible for law enforcement in urban national parks in Washington, D.C., New York City and San Francisco.
The study is a follow-up to a previous 2001 Academy Panel report that recommended changes to the mission and priorities of the Park Police.
The new report finds that only six of 20 recommendations put forth in 2001 have been acted upon.
Only limited progress has been made “in implementing the five recommendations considered most crucial to refocus U.S. Park Police resources and their use on National Park Service’s most critical law enforcement needs.”
The report notes that additional law enforcement and security requirements in the wake of the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, reinforce the need for clarification of the Park Police’s mission and priorities.
Some of these new duties, such as providing assistance to the U.S. Secret Service to help escort administration officials and foreign dignitaries within the D.C. metropolitan area and providing protection for the Interior Department Secretary, “extend beyond explicit National Park Service law enforcement needs.”
These additional responsibilities “created major stresses and conflicts” within the agency and have caused the Park Police to curb its traditional patrols of D.C. parkways and national parks.
“The Park Police cannot be expected to function as a full-service urban police department and guardian of national parks at current resource levels,” according to the report. “If it is to continue to fulfill its current broad roles, it needs additional resources. If resources are not available, its mission must be clarified and priorities established for its diverse law enforcement functions.”
The findings of the report are similar to concerns raised by former U.S. Park Police Chief Teresa Chambers, who was fired by the Bush administration for telling the media her agency faced a $12 million budget shortfall.
An administrative law judge is currently deciding whether Chambers should be reinstated. A decision is expected sometime in the next two weeks.
Provided by the Environmental News Service.