Washington, DC -- The Acting Chief of the U.S. Park Police is scheduled to retire from government service tomorrow but no successor has yet been named, according to Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility (PEER). The current Chief of the Park Police, Teresa Chambers, begins her 16th week on paid administrative leave while top Interior officials continue to delay decisions on her immediate fate.
Ben Holmes, the acting chief and top assistant to Chief Chambers, retires from federal service tomorrow, Friday, March 19, but no one knows who will fill in for Holmes or for how long. The U.S. Park Police, the oldest uniformed federal police force, is responsible for safeguarding the National Mall, monuments, such as the Statue of Liberty, and parks and parkways in the DC metro area.
"The Department of Interior is playing musical chairs with one of the country's top homeland security jobs," commented PEER Executive Director Jeff Ruch. "What a ridiculous way to run a railroad." Selected in 2002 following a nationwide search, Chief Chambers, formerly police chief in Durham, N.C., is considered one of the nation's most respected law enforcement professionals. On December 5, 2003, Chief Chambers was stripped of her law enforcement credentials, badge and sidearm following a Washington Post interview concerning staff levels and has remained on administrative leave ever since.
The absence of fixed leadership in the U.S. Park Police has led to --
- A budget for the Park Police that does not address identified staff shortages, particularly on the BW Parkway and other areas experiencing surges of crimes, accidents and injuries;
- Contrary to the recommendations of the National Academy of Public Administration (NAPA) to flatten the grade structure in the Park Police, a move by the Park Service to fill vacant positions for one major and three captains, undoing Chief Chambers' efforts to adopt a leaner command structure; and
- The placement in limbo of a new strategic plan and organizational structure for the U.S. Park Police that was under development by Chief Chambers.
"By continuing to dither, the leadership in the Department of Interior is guilty of gross management malpractice," Ruch concluded.