In 2003, US Park Police Teresa Chambers made the mistake of telling the Washington Post that, in light of its new post-9/11 mission to protect national monuments like the Washington Monument from terrorist attack, her service was understaffed and underfunded. In retaliation the Deputy Director of the Park Service Don Murphy put Chambers under a gag order and placed her on administrative leave. She was subsequently fired in July 2004 and replaced by Dwight Pettiford. As a February 2008 Interior Department inspector general’s report noted, staffing and funding problems have only gotten worse. 6 of the service’s top 13 positions are unfilled and the number of officers has fallen to a 20 year low, down to 576, fewer than the 620 when Chambers made her remarks about understaffing. The departure of senior officials represents a loss of trainers, supervisors, and institutional memory further compromising the service’s effectiveness.
Worse, Pettiford has proven to be an abrasive micromanager. The service’s police union has called for his resignation, and in a 2007 survey 98% of members expressed no confidence in his leadership. Promotion exams have not been held in 5 years, and scheduled raises have been so delayed by the ongoing disorganization at the agency that the union has filed a grievance. The service also has to deal with old and poor equipment. When the dispatch system broke down, it was out for 2 weeks, and dispatchers could not access crime and vehicle databases. Its radios too are unreliable, and the service has lacked an armorer to keep and maintain equipment for two years.
All of this has become so common and too typical, the Administration talks tough about risks and threats but it doesn’t pay for what is needed to address them and is completely incapable of managing anything, even an agency as small (but important) as this one.