United States Park Police

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United States Park Police
Patch of the United States Park Police.png
Flag of the United States Department of the Interior.svg
Flag of the U.S. Department of the Interior
Badge of the United States Park Police.png
Flag of the United States National Park Service.svg
Flag of the U.S. National Park Service
Common name U.S. Park Police
Abbreviation USPP
Motto Integrity, Honor, Service
Agency overview
Formed 1919
Preceding agency
  • Park Watchmen (1791)
Jurisdictional structure
Federal agency
(Operations jurisdiction)
United States
Operations jurisdiction United States
Legal jurisdiction National Park Service areas, primarily located in the Washington, D.C., San Francisco, and New York City areas and certain other government lands.
General nature Federal law enforcement
Headquarters Washington, D.C.

Agency executive
  • Robert MacLean, Chief
Parent agency National Park Service

The United States Park Police (USPP) is one of the oldest uniformed federal law enforcement agencies in the United States. It functions as a full-service law enforcement agency with responsibilities and jurisdiction in those National Park Service areas primarily located in the Washington, D.C., San Francisco, and New York City areas and certain other government lands. The United States Park Police is one of the few full-service police departments in the federal government that possess both state and federal authority. In addition to performing the normal crime prevention, investigation, and apprehension functions of an urban police force, the Park Police are responsible for policing many of the famous monuments in the United States. The USPP shares law enforcement jurisdiction in all lands administered by the National Park Service with a force of National Park Service Rangers tasked with the same law enforcement powers and responsibilities. The agency also provides protection for the President, Secretary of the Interior, and visiting dignitaries. The Park Police is a unit of the National Park Service, which is a bureau of the Department of the Interior.

In November 2017, Park Police shot Bijan Ghaisar, an unarmed Virginia man following a traffic collision on the George Washington Memorial Parkway. More than eight months after the incident, Park Police provided no explanation for the killing.[1]


U.S. Park Police

The Park Watchmen were first recruited in 1791 by George Washington to protect federal property only in the District of Columbia. The Watchmen were given the same powers and duties as the Metropolitan Police of Washington in 1882, and their name was officially changed to the present United States Park Police in 1919. Their authority first began to expand outside D.C. in 1929, and today they are primarily responsible for the Gateway National Recreation Area units within New York City and the Golden Gate National Recreation Area in San Francisco, as well as the many designated areas in the Washington area, which includes neighboring counties in Maryland and Virginia. These sites include the National Mall, the C&O Canal towpath in the region, and the parallel roadways of the George Washington Memorial Parkway in Virginia and Clara Barton Parkway in Maryland.

The police functioned as an independent agency of the federal government until 1849, when it was placed under the jurisdiction of the Department of the Interior. In 1867, Congress transferred the police to the Office of Public Buildings and Grounds, under the supervision of the Chief of Engineers of the Army Corps of Engineers. In 1925, Congress placed the Park Police in the independent Office of Public Buildings and Public Parks of the National Capital. Headed by an Army officer, Lt. Col. Ulysses S. Grant III, the office reported directly to the President of the United States. In 1933, President Franklin Delano Roosevelt transferred the police to the National Park Service.

US Park Police Officer in Class A Dress Blouse


Park Police have no authority to follow a vehicle outside their jurisdiction unless a felony has been committed. [1] According to Park Police policy, lethal force can only be used when there is "imminent danger of death or serious bodily harm".[2]


Park Police are forbidden from wearing body cameras while on the job. In a 2015 memo written by Chief MacLean, he told the entire force not to use any audio or video recorders "while on duty". MacLean claimed that the lack of a department-wide policy justified the ban on cameras.[3]

In 2018, DC Congressional Representative Eleanor Holmes Norton introduced a bill to require uniformed federal police officers to wear body cameras and have dashboard cameras in marked vehicles. Chief MacLean backed out of a scheduled meeting with Holmes Norton and Representative Don Beyer to discuss the matter, prompting Holmes Norton to make a statement to "express our astonishment" at his absence.[4]

Use of force

In 2011, U.S. Park Police conducted an investigation after the arrest of five dancers at the Jefferson Memorial. In a video posted to YouTube, Park Police appeared to body slam and choke an individual who was silently dancing. The dance was in protest of the ban on dancing at memorials. [5]

Law enforcement

In 2014, Park Police launched a crackdown on food truck operators. Park Police handcuffed food vendors who were selling to tourists on the National Mall. Vendors suggested that the enforcement was to protect the revenue from the government's food stands.[6]

Shooting of Bijan Ghaisar

In November 2017, Park Police shot and killed Bijan Ghaisar, an unarmed Virginia man. More than eight months after the incident, Park Police provided no explanation for the killing.[1] According to a lawsuit filed by the family, it was twelve hours following the incident before the family learned that Park Police were involved. Two days after the shooting, Park Police Chief Robert MacLean met with the family. MacLean offered condolences but provided no information about what had happened.[1] The Ghaisar family was not allowed to touch their son for three days following the incident, when he was guarded by the department’s officers.[1] According to the family, when a doctor arrived to examine Ghaisar for organ donation, the Park Police denied access, declaring the brain-dead man “under arrest” and his body “evidence.”[1] More than nine months after the incident, Chief MacLean refused to speak to media about the incident, while Fairfax County Police, who filmed the shooting, said that the episode showed that greater transparency was needed. [7]



Today, the U.S. Park Police has the responsibilities of providing policing in five districts in Washington, D.C. and surrounding areas, two districts in New York City, and one district in San Francisco.

District 1: Officers at Hains Point provide policing for the downtown D.C. area. Independence Avenue, Hains Point, Constitution Avenue, the Washington Monument, the National Mall, the Memorials, the Ellipse, Lafayette Park and other NPS areas up Florida Avenue are covered by this station, as well as the Rock Creek Parkway.

District 2: Officers provide coverage in three states at the GWMP Station. In Virginia, Fort Hunt, Mt. Vernon and the George Washington Memorial Parkway are primary responsibilities. In the District, Humpback Bridge and Lady Bird Johnson Parks. In Maryland, the Clara Barton Parkway is policed. Duties of these officers are similar to those of a state trooper providing round the clock coverage of major commuter roadways, performing crash investigations, and enforcement of traffic laws, DWI enforcement, and all other criminal investigations.

District 3: Officers of the Rock Creek Park station provide coverage to Georgetown, Rock Creek Park and the Fort Circle Park areas of NW and NE D.C.

District 4: Officers of the Baltimore-Washington Parkway station provide round the clock coverage of this major commuter parkway as well as adjacent roadways, parks, and Federal reservations in Prince George's County and Anne Arundel County.

District 5: (Anacostia Operations Facility) Officers of the Anacostia Station provide coverage to Anacostia Park, Fort Dupont, the Frederick Douglass Home and many other NPS properties in the SW and SE quadrants of Washington, D.C. This station also patrols the Suitland Parkway in Prince George's County, Maryland, as well as National Park Service sites in southern Prince George's County and parts of Charles County, Maryland such as Marshal Hall.

District 8: The San Francisco Field Office provides coverage for the Golden Gate National Recreation Area in San Francisco, Marin County, and San Mateo County, including park units such as Crissy Field, Marin Headlands, and the Presidio of San Francisco.

District 9: This district is one of the two districts that make up the New York Field Office. District 9 provides patrol coverage for the Gateway National Recreation Area in Staten Island, Brooklyn and Queens.

Liberty District: This district also falls under the New York Field Office, and provides police services and security for Liberty Island and Ellis Island, Castle Clinton National Monument, and Federal Hall National Memorial. Police services for other Manhattan NPS sites are provided as needed. Liberty Island is exclusive federal jurisdiction.

In Virginia, USPP Officers are provided with Conservator of the Peace powers as set forth in 19.2-12 of the Code of Virginia[8] with powers and duties provided under 19.2-18 of the Code of Virginia.[9] In Washington, D.C. itself, USPP Officers have the same powers and duties as the D.C. Metropolitan Police. USPP Officers possess a limited arrest authority in the State of Maryland. The U.S. Park Police hold state arrest authority in New York [ New York State CPL 2.15 part 9 ], and state arrest authority in New Jersey [ New Jersey Code 2A:154-6 ]. In California, arrest powers are provided under California Penal Code Section 830.8. These state arrest powers are in addition to powers held as federal officers. The U.S. Park Police primarily enforce laws including but not limited to Title 36 of the Code of Federal Regulations (CFR) and other federal statutes such as 16 USC and 18 USC, as well as state and local laws.

The Guard Force

U.S. Park Police officers stand by on President George W. Bush's Inauguration Day in January 2005.

The USPP also oversees the Uniformed Guard Force which provides many urban National Park Service establishments with unarmed security guard and patrol services usually dealing with access and pass controls, key control, security patrols of buildings and facilities and assisting both the USPP and members of the public.


U.S. Park Police maintains communications centers which operate 24 hours a day seven days a week. One in the District of Columbia, one in San Francisco and two in the New York area. The Park Police oversees two dispatch (SF and NY) centers which also dispatch park EMS crews as well as park police officers. The centers are staffed by fully trained emergency dispatchers who handle a wide range of emergency calls for service, from shooting calls to suicide calls. The dispatchers have been credited with saving numerous civilian lives through specialized call taking (such as suicide call taking) and through quick deployment of officers to scenes as well as coordinating multi-agency police responses to scenes.


U.S. Park Police helicopter, Washington, D.C., August 24, 2013.

The missions of the United States Park Police Aviation Unit include aviation support for law enforcement, medevac, search and rescue, high-risk prisoner transport and presidential and dignitary security. The Aviation Unit has provided accident-free, professional aviation services for over 40 years. This is due to the dedication of the flight crews, the support from within and outside the Force, and the state-of-art equipment used in the performance of its missions. They were the first helicopter provider of Air medical services within Washington, D.C, and continue to provide these services 24/7 to the district and neighboring jurisdictions[10]. They also provide an invaluable resource for patrolling and performing rescues at the numerous federal parks and recreation areas within the National Capital Region, such as Great Falls Park and Shenandoah National Park[11]. Like many park environments, injured parties in these remote and difficult to access locations require specialized rescue equipment to access and retrieve persons in distress. The US Park Police Aviation Unit is the primary resource for these remote rescues requiring helicopter access.

The Aviation Unit of the United States Park Police began in April 1973 and was placed under the command of Lt. Richard T. Chittick. It started with one Bell 206B JetRanger and a staff of three pilots and three rescue technicians based at the Anacostia Naval Air Station in a shared space with the MPD Aviation Branch. A second helicopter, a Bell 206B-3 JetRanger, was added in 1975 and the unit relocated to Andrews AFB.

The Aviation Unit moved to its present facility in Anacostia Park, the "Eagle's Nest," in 1976. In 1983, the 206B-3 was upgraded to a Bell206L-3 LongRanger. Their first twin-engine helicopter, a Bell 412SP, and the third helicopter to carry the designation "Eagle One," was placed in service in January 1991. The unit grew to its current staff, and began providing 24-hour coverage in January 1994.

In August 1999, the unit took delivery of its second twin-engine helicopter, a Bell 412EP. It became the fourth helicopter in the unit's history to carry the designation "Eagle One" and the same registration number as that of an earlier aircraft whose crew affected the rescue of victims after the crash of Air Florida Flight 90. In May 2016, the unit received a replacement for "Eagle Two" with a used & reconditioned Bell 412EP to replace the aging aircraft delivered in 1991[12].

The crew of US Park Police Aviation resources are frequently called to assist at significant and historical disasters and emergency incidents throughout the National Capital Region. These incidents include the September 11 attacks on the Pentagon[13], the D.C. sniper attacks throughout the region, and the Washington Navy Yard shooting in 2013[14]. During the 2017 Congressional baseball shooting the crews of US Park Police Aviation responded with two helicopters and transported Congressman Steve Scalise and a US Capitol Police Officer to the trauma center at MedStar Washington Hospital Center. [15][16]

Aircraft Fleet

Call Sign Model Tail Number Manufacture Year
Eagle 1 Bell 412EP N11PP 2003
Eagle 2 Bell 412EP N22PP 1998
Eagle 3 Bell 206L3 N33PP 1983

Marine Unit

The United States Park Police Marine Unit operates primarily out of both District 9 and Liberty District in the New York Field Office, providing coverage of National Park Service areas in New York Harbor and Jamaica Bay. Responsibilities of the Marine Unit include enforcing boating regulations, fish and wildlife protection, security zone enforcement, and search and rescue. The Washington, D.C. U.S. Park Police Marine Unit has been disbanded.

Traffic Safety Unit

The Traffic Safety Unit operates primarily out of the Washington, D.C. area, coordinating the department's alcohol, Drug Recognition Expert (DRE), Advanced Roadside Impaired Detection Enforcement (ARIDE), speed enforcement programs and DOT Commercial Motor Vehicle Inspections. This unit is also responsible for conducting investigations of major traffic accidents, that involve death or serious injury, in National Park Service areas. The Traffic Safety Unit trains park police officers, as well as officers from other agencies, on equipment such as; Radar, Laser, Intoxilyzers, tint meters, and PBTs (Preliminary breath test). This unit also provides training on accident investigations, forensic scene mapping, total station, and Standardized Field Sobriety Testing (SFST). The Traffic Safety Unit also coordinates the department's involvement with the Smooth Operator Program in the Washington, D.C. area, which targets aggressive drivers.

Criminal Investigations Branch

The Criminal Investigations Branch has personnel assigned to all U.S. Park Police areas nationwide. Assigned personnel consist of detectives, plainclothes investigators, identification technicians, and civilians. Elements of the Criminal Investigations Branch are;

Major Crimes

Identification Section

Narcotics and Vice

Environmental Crimes

Other functions include dignitary protection, assisting with demonstrations and civil disturbances, and participating in federal and local task forces.

Special Forces Branch

The Special Forces Branch is responsible for coordinating the many large, high-profile events that occur in National Park Service areas in the Washington Metropolitan Area (WMA). These events include Demonstrations, festivals, and the United States presidential inauguration, all of which can have millions of attendees. This branch of the U.S. Park Police, along with the National Park Service, creates incident action plans focusing on concerns such as public safety, emergency management, and transportation entities. The Special Forces Branch determines the size and scope of deployment of the department's personnel before and during an event. This personnel may include specialized units such as SWAT, Aviation, reactionary teams, and Horse Mounted Patrol. The Special Forces Branch, along with the National Park Service and other law enforcement agencies, work to ensure the safety of all that are involved. This unit is also responsible for Presidential security and dignitary escorts. This unit may also assign personnel as needed by the National Park Service or the Department of the Interior throughout the United States and its territories.

Rank structure

Title Insignia
Chief of Police
4 Gold Stars.svg
Assistant Chief
3 Gold Stars.svg
Deputy Chief
2 Gold Stars.svg
US-O4 insignia.svg
Captain insignia gold.svg
US-O1 insignia.svg
VSP Sergeant.jpg


See also


  1. ^ a b c d e f Tom Jackman and Michael Brice-Saddler (3 August 2018). "Family of accountant shot dead by U.S. Park Police officers files $25 million lawsuit". Washington Post. Washington DC. Retrieved 4 August 2018. 
  2. ^ Tom Jackman (24 January 2018). "Video shows Park Police fired nine shots into Bijan Ghaisar's Jeep at close range, killing him". Washington Post. Washington DC. Retrieved 24 January 2018. 
  3. ^ MIRANDA GREEN (25 April 2018). "Park Police officers were forbidden from wearing body cameras: memo". Washington Post. Washington DC. Retrieved 25 April 2018. 
  4. ^ Tom Jackman (13 February 2018). "After Ghaisar killing, Park Police chief backs out of meeting on bill requiring body cams". Washington Post. Washington DC. Retrieved 15 July 2018. 
  5. ^ RUSSELL GOLDMAN (30 May 2011). "Park Police Investigate Arrests for Dancing at Jefferson Memorials". ABC News. Washington DC. Retrieved 30 May 2011. 
  6. ^ Michelle Murillo (8 July 2014). "Park Police Investigate Park police cracking down on Mall food trucks". WTOP. Washington DC. Retrieved 8 July 2014. 
  7. ^ Paul Wagner (9 August 2018). "US Park Police chief confronted about deadly shooting of Bijan Ghaisar". Fox News. Washington DC. Retrieved 9 August 2018. 
  8. ^ http://leg1.state.va.us/cgi-bin/legp504.exe?000+cod+19.2-12
  9. ^ http://leg1.state.va.us/cgi-bin/legp504.exe?000+cod+19.2-18
  10. ^ https://doh.dc.gov/service/ems-air-medical-providers
  11. ^ https://www.nationalparkstraveler.org/2013/09/elite-national-park-service-helicopter-unit-marks-forty-years-service23970
  12. ^ https://usppfop.org/2016/05/25/660/
  13. ^ https://1.bp.blogspot.com/_j1WCY4T_2yI/SQUQBtQrYII/AAAAAAAADN4/O97enfmjbCA/s1600-h/fat+lady+sings.jpg
  14. ^ https://www.usnews.com/news/articles/2013/09/16/dc-navy-yard-shooting-at-least-6-dead
  15. ^ https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1kbSfcZQFbc
  16. ^ https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UKAN0Bcbstg

External links

  • The United States Park Police - A History by Barry Mackintosh
  • Retired U.S. Park Police Official Site
  • USPP Officers who have received Citations for Valor provided by the Retired U.S. Park Police Association
  • The Fraternal Order of Police's Labor Committee representing the Officers of the USPP
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