Special Events Unit

The United States Park Police is recognized worldwide for prominence in effective crowd management and security. In 2006, the Force managed over 12,000 events occurring on Federal parkland. The majority of these events occurred in the Washington metropolitan area. These events ranged in size from a handful of participants to large assembled masses numbering in the tens of thousands. Whether a Special Event or a First Amendment demonstration, the U.S. Park Police employs those tactics and strategies necessary to effectively manage the group(s) and their actions.

The Special Forces Branch of the U.S. Park Police in the Washington metropolitan area is responsible for the management of such events. Of these events, Special Forces Branch handles over 2,000. For the larger, high-profile events, an incident action plan is developed in partnership with the National Park Service, as well as surrounding public safety, emergency management, and transportation entities. These operational plans entail a comprehensive analysis of available law enforcement intelligence related to these events and the coordinated efforts of a wide variety of law enforcement assets.

A smaller event may only entail the deployment of a small contingent of personnel; however, a larger or controversial event entails the deployment of several specialized units (to include SWAT, Aviation, Horse Mounted Patrol, Reactionary Teams, and the Motorcycle Unit). The potential for counter protest groups during these events creates additional concerns. Despite the obvious enforcement aspect associated with these events, the Constitutional rights and safety of these groups remain paramount in determining asset deployment and action.

The U.S. Park Police takes extreme pride in the fact that the occurrences of litigation or serious incidents/injuries related to these events have been extremely minimal. A majority of these events take place in the Nation’s Capital, adjacent to the White House, the monuments and memorials, the U.S. Capitol, and on the National Mall. Therefore, all of these events receive national and international media attention and public scrutiny. Notwithstanding the focused attention and scrutiny of these crowd management and security efforts, the U.S. Park Police remains highly regarded by the community, the media, and the groups themselves. While maintaining order during demonstrations, special events, and other planned and unplanned events and emergencies, the Special Forces Branch is also responsible for providing Presidential security and dignitary escorts.

The National Park Service, Division of Park Programs, located in the National Capital Region Headquarters building, issues approximately 4,000 permits per year, including those for public gatherings (special events and demonstrations), filming, and photography. Park areas administered by this office include the National Mall & Memorial Parks, President’s Park, Rock Creek Park, National Capital Parks East, George Washington Memorial Parkway, Manassas National Battlefield Park, Wolf Trap National Park for the Performing Arts, Prince William Forest Park, Ford's Theater, and the portion of Chesapeake and Ohio Canal National Historical Park from Georgetown to the Monocacy River Aqueduct.

Last updated: October 15, 2015