Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Park Police Chief Returns, Real Story Overlooked

After a seven-year legal battle, Teresa Chambers has been reinstated as Chief of the U.S. Park Police.  She returned to her job yesterday after an administrative panel, with new members appointed by the Obama Administration, reversed her dismissal.  But recent media reports have overlooked an important element of this story -- at least for residents of the District of Columbia.

Reports uniformly cite Chambers' comments to the media regarding her concerns with the lack of staffing and budget to adequately protect national monuments following increased security demands post-9/11 as the reason for her dismissal. 

But that's not quite what she said. 

Chief Chambers expressed concern that due to the increased demand for officers to stand as sentries at the monuments, the U.S. Park Police would not be left with adequate officers to patrol neighborhood parks in the District.  As a result, she was suspended in late 2003 and fired in mid 2004.

At the time, as a Logan Circle Advisory Neighborhood Commissioner, I was busy trying to improve the safety and look of Logan Circle Park, which, at times, was overturn with drug use and public drinking.  Many of the District's circles and squares, as well as smaller "pocket parks," are federal property and primary jurisdiction for patrolling them falls to the U.S. Park Police.  In fact, over the years, MPD officers have confirmed to me that they will not patrol these parks unless they happen to view illegal activity occurring.

That is why District residents should hail Teresa Chamber's return as a personal victory.  Although responsible for safety and security of the National Mall, Rock Creek, Baltimore-Washington and George Washington parkways, as well as New York's Liberty Island and San Francisco's Golden Gate National Recreation Area, she kept DC's neighborhood parks a priority.  She lost her job for doing so. 

Welcome back, Chief Chambers.

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