Holding The Line – Increasingly Difficult

Understaffed and Under-Equipped

The United States Park Police (USPP) is understaffed and under equipped. The evidence of this is substantial but, the National Park Service (NPS) has recklessly ignored the evidence for decades. Their long-term neglect of the USPP’s operational readiness issues and an inability to grasp the current threat environment have resulted in a police force that cannot effectively patrol, investigate crimes, or respond to critical incidents. The NPS must be compelled to address these issues immediately, the safety of the public and some of our Nation’s most treasured cultural resources are at risk.

The Evidence

The most recent independent staffing analysis of the USPP was completed in 1999 and was conducted by the consulting firm of Booz, Allen & Hamilton (Booz-Allen).  Booz-Allen concluded that the USPP needed 820 officers to operate effectively.  Currently, the USPP has about 650 officers. Since, the Booz-Allen study was published about 1 1/2 years before the attacks on September 11, 2001, is it reasonable to believe that the USPP needed less than 820 officers in 2017? The NPS has ignored the Boos-Allen staffing estimate for the better part of two decades.

In a December 3, 2003, article in the Washington Post, entitled, “Park Police Duties Exceed Staffing; Anti-Terror Demands Have Led Chief to Curtail Patrols Away From Mall”,  USPP Chief Teresa Chambers is cited as stating, “In the long run, Chambers said, her 620-member department needs a major expansion, perhaps to about 1,400 officers.” The current staffing level of the United States Park Police is about 650 officers. The National Park Service (NPS) states that the USPP only needs 639 officers. Former USPP Chief Chambers is a law enforcement executive with over 30 years of experience on 4 police departments. Even in the unlikely event, Chief Chambers estimate is 50% inflated, the number of sworn officers needed by the USPP is 700 officers.  Seven hundred officers are 61 more officers than the 639 the NPS, currently claims is sufficient for safe and effective USPP operations.

Prior to the attacks of September 11, 2001, the United States Capitol Police (USCP) and the United States Secret Service- Uniformed Division (USSS-UD) each had approximately two times more officers than the USPP had in the Washington, DC area. The 650 USPP officers are distributed among the District of Columbia, New York, and California. Currently, the United States Capitol Police has approximately 1700 sworn officers, and it is our understanding that the USSS-UD is similarly situated.

By comparison, in the Washington, DC Metropolitan Area the USPP has about 500 officers. Simply put, these other agencies have at least 3 times the number of officers that the USPP has in the Washington, DC area.  While the USPPFOP does not know what staffing level methodologies were used by the USCP and the USSS-UD they are obviously quite different from the one the NPS utilized. This conclusion is based on the distinct differences between the staffing increases of the USPP and these other agencies. In 2002, the USPP had approximately 620 officers, and now the USPP has about 650. Given the professional reputation of the USCP and the USSS-UD, it would be difficult to imagine that they would both use flawed or unprofessional methods to perform their staffing analysis. This leads the FOP to the conclusion that the staffing analysis methodology employed by the NPS is dangerously flawed.

More Evidence

  • The size of the geographic area of the USPP’s jurisdiction in comparison to these other two agencies supports the conclusion that the USPP should have at least comparable numbers of sworn officers.
  • The comparable visitation rates of the areas under the control of the three agencies support the conclusion that the USPP should have at least similar numbers of sworn officers.
  • The areas patrolled by the USCP and the USSS-UD are generally secured by security barriers and have controlled access. By comparison, the areas patrolled by the USPP are open to the public and do not have controlled access (Exceptions: Statue of Liberty, Ellis Island, and Washington Monument). Given the increased difficulties of providing public safety in facilities and areas with uncontrolled access, when compared to facilities and areas with controlled access, it is reasonable to conclude that, at least, comparable numbers of officers would be needed to protect the public.


The hardening of other facilities puts the areas under control of the USPP at increased risk.  The USPP’s ability to prevent, detect, and effectively respond to critical incidents like active shooters, bombings, and critical missing persons is severely hampered by the Force’s lack of personnel. For example, in the USPP’s Central District, even at ideal times, the USPP doesn’t have enough on-duty personnel to cordon off an area the size of the Lincoln Memorial, much less quickly and decisively respond to a critical incident.

The public’s reasonable expectation would be that the USPP is able to effectively respond to critical incidents. The reality is that isn’t enough people and stuff to do the job effectively. In the event, of a critical incident like an active shooter, a bombing or a Mumbai/Paris style attack the inadequacy of the USPP’s response forces will result in unnecessary loss of life. In the aftermath, the USPP will be devastated by the public outrage over the inadequacy of the response. The USPPFOP cannot sit idle and hope that things get better.

The USPP needs more personnel for response forces, bomb detection canine units, patrol, crime patrol units, investigative operations and intelligence operations. There is also a great need for equipment, such as prepositioned medical equipment for an incident involving mass casualties and security systems that are up to the task of protecting the monuments and memorials.

The USPPFOP’s position on staffing is that the USPP needs approximately 1000 officers to staff an effective dedicated response force and be able to effectively perform all other aspects of its mission. We agree with Booz-Allen that in 1999 the USPP needed 820 officers. However, in 2017 given the experiences of the last of the last 14 years, the evidence clearly justifies an additional 180 officers over their 1999 estimate.