U.S. Park Police Chief Teresa Chambers has been suspended for saying publicly that her department was shorthanded, the Washington Post reports. The National Park Service action followed a statement by her superior that her comments to news reporters broke federal rules.
Rep. James P. Moran Jr. (D-Va.), who sits on the appropriations subcommittee that approves funds for the Park Service, said the disciplinary action “sends exactly the wrong message…I think that’s part of their purpose, to send a message to managers that ‘you keep your mouth shut and your thoughts to yourself.’ ”
Chambers, 46, last year became the Park Police’s first woman chief in its 200-plus-year history. She had been police chief in Durham, N.C., for four years; before that, she was a high-ranking official in the Prince George’s County department.
In interviews with The Washington Post and local TV and radio stations, she had discussed a requirement that Park Police place four officers at each of three sites: the Washington Monument and the Lincoln and Jefferson memorials. Chambers said that she did not have enough officers to meet the new requirements and that she had to cut back patrols in other parks and parkways. As a result, she said, accidents increased on the Baltimore-Washington Parkway and homeless people and drug dealers were taking over city parks.
Then Chambers was told to stop talking to the media. Don Murphy, the Park Service’s deputy director, said her comments violated officials from “lobbying” and from discussing budget proposals before they are finalized.