On July 4, thousands of Americans gathered on the National Mall in Washington, D.C. to take in the annual Independence Day fireworks display. The event was a peaceful and joyful occasion – and that’s largely thanks to the efforts of the United States Park Police.
The U.S. Park Police are the uniformed law enforcement officers of the National Park Service with jurisdiction over National Parks in D.C., such as the National Mall, and other smaller locations like the Statue of Liberty in New York City and the Golden Gate National Recreation Area in San Francisco. Founded by George Washington in the earliest days of the republic, the Park Police is one of the oldest law enforcement agencies in the country.
The Park Police serve on the frontlines of nearly every protest in D.C. – including the Black Lives Matter riots last summer and the Capitol riot on January 6. Despite the critical importance of their mission, these officers are underpaid, overworked, and short-staffed!
In recent years, the number of demonstrations, security threats, acts of vandalism, and civil disturbances has increased significantly, and the Park Police have been stretched thin. While the department’s staff requirements call for a minimum of 639 officers and the force ideally should have nearly 850, there are fewer than 500 Park Police officers as of March 1, 2021. As a result, many support positions are going unfilled, and officers are routinely working longer shifts.
One of the core problems is that the Park Police is at a serious disadvantage with other D.C. area law enforcement regarding pay and benefits. Agencies like the Secret Service, Capitol Police, FBI, ATF, and U.S. Marshalls all offer more generous pay grades and retirement benefits, and officers often begin their careers with the Park Police but quickly leave for other agencies. This situation needs to be fixed!
Across the country, Democrats and the radical Left have undermined law enforcement agencies and launched vicious attacks on police officers. Pushing back on the insane “Defund the Police” movement requires us to proactively support law enforcement and ensure these brave men and women have the resources they need to protect our communities.
I have introduced the U.S. Park Police Modernization Act, H.R. 3924, to improve the Park Police’s pay and benefits to put the agency on equal footing with similar departments such as the U.S. Capitol Police and the U.S. Secret Service Uniformed Division. I believe this legislation will greatly incentivize officers to join and stay with the Park Police and ensure that Americans visiting national landmarks can do so in a safe and secure environment.
Endorsed by the unions of the U.S. Park Police and U.S. Capitol Police, as well as the Fraternal Order of Police, I am hopeful that we will be able to get this legislation across the finish line and I am currently working with my colleagues on both sides of the aisle to get it there!