Criminal Investigations (CI) is dedicated to the mission of preventing, investigating and detecting criminal activity, and apprehending violators of law. The first documented use of U.S. Park Police plainclothes officers occurred on November 23, 1905 in an Evening Star newspaper article called "Danger Exaggerated". In brief, Colonel Bromwell, commander of the United States Park Watchmen, submitted a report to Congress and the War Department regarding an investigation concerning the railroad's usage of US Reservation #113. Bromwell stated, "in citizen's dress, and the employees of the railroad company had no intimation that their movements were being watched".
During that time, plainclothes officers were assigned to areas with a high incidence of criminal activity, with special emphasis on larceny from automobiles, indecent exposure “and other offenses usually covertly committed when police are thought to be elsewhere.” Throughout the 1960’s the Unit responsible for preventing and investigating crimes was called the “Crime Prevention Division.” In 1970 the Unit’s name was changed to the Criminal Investigations Branch, and consisted of 3 sections: the Criminal Investigations, Tactical, and Youth sections. In 1973, the Identification Section was established to ensure that crime scenes were properly processed. The Narcotics and Vice Unit was added to the Criminal Investigations Branch in 1983 to help battle the rising tide of drug violence and abuse in and around the parks in our Nation’s Capital. Finally, in 2001, an Environmental Crimes Unit was added to the Criminal Investigations Branch to ensure that crimes against the environment received the attention they deserved.
Today, Criminal Investigations consists of detectives, plainclothes investigators, and identification technicians assigned to one of the following elements: Major Crimes, Identification Section, Special Investigations, Narcotics and Vice, and Environmental Crimes. The officers and members of Criminal Investigations are responsible for a complete and thorough investigation of serious incidents, e.g., deaths, sexual assaults, robberies, assaults, narcotics violations, and significant incidents in which a tort claim may be made against the United States Government. Personnel assigned to Criminal Investigations also provide presidential and dignitary protection, assist in mass arrest situations, demonstrations and special events. On occasion, members are detailed to local and Federal task forces created to combat specific types or incidents of crime.
The Narcotics and Vice Unit operates primarily in the District of Columbia and 10 surrounding counties in Maryland and Virginia. This Unit concentrates on street-level drug trafficking by targeting the source of drugs used/sold within National Parks and targets the heads of mid-level street distribution organizations and wholesalers. The Unit also targets prostitution, open-air drug markets, and assists Major Crimes Detectives in drug-related homicide cases and cases that need specific targeted enforcement. In addition, the Unit coordinates all asset seizure cases made by the Force within the National Capital area and processes these cases for forfeiture action.
The Environmental Crimes Unit (ECU) was formed in 1994 as part of Criminal Investigations, but it traces its investigative functions back to the late-1700s when watchmen of the United States were assigned to “reservation patrol” in the Federal City and the city’s federal buildings.Today, the ECU enforces the criminal provisions of environmental, cultural, and natural resource laws to complement and enhance the mission directive set forth in the 1916 Organic Act for the National Park Service.
The assigned detectives and investigators of the ECU work closely with law enforcement agents of other federal agencies; targeting potential responsible parties and violators who pollute and damage the public lands, waters, and other federally owned resources within the Environs of the National Capital. Members of the ECU assist and train Force personnel and officers from other law enforcement agencies to recognize and understand the environmental laws relating to police patrol tactics and criminal behaviors.
The ECU duties include analyzing trends and patterns of criminal behaviors affecting the natural resources of the National Parks.The unit works closely with the National Park Service Damage Assessment officers to evaluate civil damages occurring within National Parks in the DC area.
Unit members routinely work with special agents of the United States Fish and Wildlife Service and other state law enforcement agents to prevent the poaching and theft of flora and wildlife. They are currently assigned to numerous local area and international task forces focused on environmental protection.The ECU has assisted US State Department approved foreign states in training their country’s police representatives in recognizing urban timber theft, theft in archeological sites, illegal dumping and water pollution.
The United States Park Police Identification Unit was formed in June of 1973. After the Unit’s original technicians finished their training, the Unit went operational on January 1, 1974. The first Mobile Crime Number (MCL) handled by the Unit was for a traffic fatality on Spout Run Parkway at Lorcum Lane on January 1, 1974.
Technicians are specialized senior officers who assist the case officer (Detectives/ investigators/ traffic safety officers/ patrol officers) in the forensic aspects of criminal investigations. The Identification Technicians identify, document, collect, preserve, and process all evidence in major criminal investigations. Using advanced techniques, technicians recover latent prints and work with the FBI laboratory to identify subjects. Technicians are skilled photographers and routinely document high volume arrests, 1st Amendment demonstrations, crime scenes, and special events.
The Unit is the Force’s primary interface with the District of Columbia forensic lab, State (MD, VA) laboratories, and the national laboratories of the FBI and DEA and ATF. The Unit also has a technician whose responsibility is that of the Force’s Narcotics Officer. This technician maintains the narcotics vault and is the administrator for the Evidence Tracker system.
In 1997, the Crime Scene Search Officer (CSSO) program was implemented to assist the Unit with handling cases. Patrol officers go through a 3 week training program to serve as a force multiplier for the Unit. This program is overseen by the Identification Unit Sergeant.
Identification technicians are selected from applicants who have a minimum of 3 years of service in the employ of the U.S. Park Police. Officers are selected after being evaluated through a competitive process which includes a written exam, oral board, and work history review.