STATEMENT OF TERESA C. CHAMBERS, CHIEF, UNITED STATES PARK POLICE, NATIONAL PARK SERVICE, DEPARTMENT OF THE INTERIOR, BEFORE THE HOUSE GOVERNMENT REFORM COMMITTEE, REGARDING EMERGENCY PREPAREDNESS IN THE NATIONíS CAPITAL.

 

April 10, 2003

 

 

 


Mr. Chairman and members of the committee, thank you for the opportunity to testify today on emergency preparedness in the Nationís Capital.Although I have been the Chief of the United States Park Police for just 14 months, I retired from a police agency just inside the State of Maryland and am familiar with both the challenges and the many positive aspects of policing in this region.

 

While the United States Park Policeís primary areas of responsibility are the National Park areas of Washington, D.C., New York City, and San Francisco, we have arrest authority in any unit of the National Park System.At the request of the National Park Service and other agencies, the United States Park Police also has provided law enforcement expertise at many different venues, including the Summer Olympics in Atlanta, Georgia, the Republican National Convention at Independence National Historic Site, and the Cuban boat flotilla at Fort Chaffee, Arkansas.

 

In implementing the Presidentís National Strategy for the Physical Protection of Critical Infrastructures and Key Assets, the Department of the Interior (Department) is the lead federal department with primary jurisdiction over national icons and monuments.The protection of the National Mall in Washington, D.C. is a key component of our responsibilities, and the Department has developed security measures to protect life and property.To enhance our efforts, Secretary Norton sent a letter on March 21, 2003, requesting that the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) and the Department of Justice (DOJ) conduct an independent assessment of the National Mall and those areas around the White House where the United States Park Police patrol.

 

The Department asked that the review assess security measures described in our Departmental Homeland Security Advisory System and Liberty Shield plans, assess implementation of security measures, review potential scenarios and evaluation of response capabilities in light of the current threat environment and proximity to the White House and U.S. Capitol, analyze existing equipment and training, evaluate surveillance and other technological measures, assess interaction of vehicle and Metrorail traffic, including tunnels, with our National Mall security responsibilities, review current screening protocols for persons and vehicles, including visitors, employees and concessionaires, and review the National Park Service permitting and planning systems for special events on the National Mall.

 

This assessment is already underway, with DHS and DOJ providing important feedback to the United States Park Police. It is our goal to provide protection that maintains an appropriate balance between security and the open accessibility of the National Parks.We look forward to continuing our work with DHS and DOJ, along with others in the Administration, to enhance the protection of national icons and monuments and the safety of the people who visit and work on the National Mall.In addition, the Administration will seek to identify cost-effective options that avoid unnecessary duplication between respective agency responsibilities and promote coordination with law enforcement agencies across jurisdictions and entities directly responsible for intelligence gathering and homeland security.

 

Very few regions can boast of the rich resources available to law enforcement in this area.When large events occur, operations are often seamless between the myriad of local, state, and Federal agencies involved.One of the best examples occurred in Washington, D.C. last year on the 4th of July.Nearly 1,200 officers from numerous agencies assisted in both plain clothes and uniformed assignments to do their part in ensuring a safe environment for the thousands of people who came downtown to celebrate Americaís independence.While the United States Park Police coordinated this activity, each organization played a vital role in ensuring a safe and successful event.

 

The Council of Governments in Washington, D.C. also provides worthwhile services to the many governmental entities that impact the city and surrounding region.The Police Chiefs Subcommittee of the Council of Governments meets monthly to review current and upcoming events, to talk about issues of equipment and technology, and to learn from each otherís experiences.On at least a weekly basis, area chiefs and other law enforcement leaders engage in conference calls to share the latest intelligence and operational information.Our officers sit side by side in a number of assignments, including Joint Terrorism Task Forces, Department of Homeland Security details, and the Metropolitan Police Departmentís Joint Operations Center.Area agencies take pride in our willingness and ability to form successful partnerships that maximize our efficiency and the level of protection we provide to the public.

 

In the recent case involving Dwight Watson, a disgruntled farmer who drove his large farm tractor into Constitution Gardens, we were joined at the command post and the surrounding area by a number of governmental and private organizations.Most closely involved with us at the command post was the Federal Bureau of Investigation, represented by Assistant Director Van Harp of the Washington Field Office.The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms also played a key role in assessing the potential threat posed by Mr. Watson, the three vehicles he drove into the pond, and the explosives he claimed to possess.

 

At one point, agency representatives at the command post also conferred with experts via a conference call to receive their input on the explosive potential and related scenarios.Also closely involved was the United States Secret Service, including both protection agents and the Uniformed Division, whose members were on the scene to assist us within minutes of the event unfolding.A number of other law enforcement agencies provided a supporting role, including the D.C. Metropolitan Police Department, the Federal Protective Service, and the U.S. Capitol Police.

 

Our job was made easier through the generous support of the District of Columbiaís Emergency Management Agency, whose command bus we used throughout the ordeal.A component of the Washington, D.C. Fire Department provided snacks and drinks and stayed on site with us during our entire time there, and the American Red Cross provided meals throughout each day and night.D.C. City Government and the National Park Service also provided several large dump trucks to assist us with one of many operational options we had in place.Lighting was provided by the National Park Service, the National Guard, and by a private film company.

Certainly, the media played a significant and important role in the Constitution Gardens matter as it does in other events in Washington, D.C.Through the United States Park Police Press Officer, we kept in constant communication with members of the press, who provided to the public not only updates on this story but also valuable information to commuters regarding alternate traffic patterns associated with those road closures that were necessary in order to protect the public from potential harm.

 

Staff members from the Department of Homeland Security were in close communication with us, and they conducted several telephone briefings every day with key people involved in or affected by this matter.Please allow me to take this opportunity to thank all of these agencies for the support and expertise they provided to the United States Park Police during the tractor incident Ė they played an integral part in achieving a successful outcome that avoided the loss of property and, more importantly, the loss of life.

 

In the case of a major crisis resulting in a mass exodus from the City of Washington, it is useful to look at our role on September 11, 2001.Within minutes of the plane striking the Pentagon, members of our Aviation Unit flying the United States Park Police helicopter, Eagle One, were in the air over the crash site.Because of the heavy smoke, Reagan National Airport traffic controllers asked the Eagle crew to provide air support for the Washington, D.C. area while the situation was assessed.In addition to providing this support, a second United States Park Police aviation team treated injured persons on the scene of the Pentagon and transported those who needed additional care to nearby hospitals.

 

At the same time the Aviation Unit was assisting with patrol, rescue, and evacuation, our Motorcycle Officers rerouted traffic, closing down lanes as necessary to allow the greatest number of motorists to leave the city in the least amount of time.Other patrol officers were deployed at our national icons and around the White House to provide a safe landing zone for the emergency evacuation of key Federal officials.

 

The United States Park Police is responsible for one bridge, the Memorial Bridge, and five of the major routes into and out of the City of Washington including: the George Washington Parkway, the Rock Creek Parkway, the Baltimore Washington Parkway, the Suitland Parkway, and the Clara Barton Parkway.Officers assigned to those areas are directed to maintain their focus in those locations should a disaster occur so that they can readily facilitate the rapid evacuation of motorists out of the city.Any evacuation would, of course, be coordinated directly with the Metropolitan Police Departmentís Joint Operations Center.Our Aviation Unit would assist with the rerouting of traffic around closures or congestion.

 

With regard to medical assistance to injured persons, the United States Park Police has three helicopters available for emergency air medical operations.These helicopters are staffed with certified pilots and paramedics.All three aircraft are capable of search and rescue missions, such as those accomplished during the Air Florida crash and the many river rescues we perform each year.Additionally and in concert with the Department of Defense Casualty Care Research Facility, we have immediate decontamination abilities along with tactically trained medical doctors and paramedics who can respond to disasters in both warm and hot zone environments.

 

The United States Park Police is beginning its migration to digital narrow band radio systems in Washington, D.C., New York, and San Francisco.We are developing partnerships with other units of the National Park Service as well as other Federal agencies to implement interoperable trunked radio systems that will allow for secure, encrypted voice transmissions and cross-talk capabilities.The United States Park Police is currently enabled for interoperable voice communications to local, state, and Federal law enforcement agencies in Washington, D.C. through the use of the ACU-1000 system resident in Alexandria, Virginia.

 

The United States Park Police is participating in the Congressionally funded Federal Wireless Interoperability Project.Twenty-four mobile computers are being deployed that will allow for the exchange of data messages between mobile units of the United States Park Police, United States Capitol Police, United States Secret Service Uniformed Division, and the Metropolitan Police Department in Washington, D.C.In the case of a critical failure of the radio infrastructure or the inaccessibility of the voice cellular system during a significant incident, the messaging capabilities of these mobile units will allow for the free flow of command information necessary to respond effectively to the incident.

 

We are also participating in the Capitol Wireless Integrated Network (CapWIN) that will allow for the exchange of data messaging between local, state, and Federal public safety agencies within the Washington, D.C. area.Currently, two mobile computers are deployed in this program with two more computers being added within the next 30 to 60 days.

 

The United States Park Police is the oldest federal, uniformed law enforcement agency in the nation.We date back to 1791 when Congress created us at the request of President George Washington.We are very proud of the role the men and women of the United States Park Police have traditionally played and will continue to play in the protection of important icons and symbols of Americaís freedom and the lives of the hundreds of thousands of people who visit them as well as in assisting in the protection of our President, Vice President, and other dignitaries.

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Mr. Chairman, this concludes my statement. I would be happy to answer any questions you or other members of the committee may have.