Federal officials plan to fire U.S. Park Police Chief Teresa Chambers for saying publicly that her department was understaffed, the Washington Post says. The force is a 620-member department whose main responsibility is safeguarding Washington’s Mall and its monuments. Chambers is accused of improperly lobbying Congress and disclosing secret budget details through her public comments. Peter Noone, her attorney, said she will defend herself by citing her First Amendment rights as well as the federal Whistleblower Protection Act. Chambers, 46, is the former police chief in Durham, N.C.
Chambers has said that focusing officers on the Mall would turn them into security guards, demoralizing the force and prompting an exodus. A union official said a dismissal of Chambers would prompt many officers to leave the department.
Chambers said in several interviews that she had to curtail patrols beyond the Mall because of an Interior Department order requiring four officers to be posted at the Washington Monument and the Lincoln and Jefferson memorials.
A Park Service official told the Post that Chambers had not reviewed her department’s staffing and mission, as requested by the Park Service and Congress. The review was recommended by a 2001 consultant’s report, which found that 15 percent of the force’s work fell outside the Park Service’s core mission. It suggested that Park Police turn over drug investigations to D.C. police and patrols on parkways to state authorities.
Tom Devine of the Government Accountability Project knows of no other government official who has been punished so severely for publicly noting a need for more resources. “That’s almost coffee talk in Washington, D.C.,” said Devine, whose group assists whistleblowers.