Special Forces Branch

USPP Aviation Unit
USPP Aviation Unit conducting rescue


Aviation Unit

The Aviation Unit of the United States Park Police began in April 1973 and was placed under the command of Lt. Richard T. Chittick. It started with 1 Bell 206B JetRanger and a staff of 3 Pilots and 3 Rescue Technicians based at the Anacostia Naval Air Station in a shared space with the MPD Aviation Branch. A second helicopter, a Bell 206B-3 JetRanger, was added in 1975 and the Unit relocated to Andrews AFB.

The Aviation Unit moved to its present facility in Anacostia Park, the "Eagle's Nest," in 1976. In 1983, the 206B-3 was upgraded to a Bell 206L-3 LongRanger. Their first twin-engine helicopter, a Bell 412SP, and the third helicopter to carry the designation "Eagle One," was placed in service in January 1991. The Unit grew to its current staff and began providing 24-hour coverage in January 1994.

In August 1999, the Unit took delivery of its second twin-engine helicopter, a Bell 412EP. It became the fourth helicopter in the Unit's history to carry the designation "Eagle One" and the same registration number as that of an earlier aircraft whose crew effected the rescue of victims after the crash of Air Florida, Flight 90.

The missions of the United States Park Police Aviation Unit include aviation support for law enforcement, medevac, search and rescue, high-risk prisoner transport, and Presidential and dignitary security. The Aviation Unit has provided accident-free, professional aviation services for over 28 years. This is due to the dedication of the flight crews, the support from within and outside the Force, and the state-of-art equipment used in the performance of its missions.

SWAT at Statue of Liberty
SWAT at Statue of Liberty

The United States Park Police’s Special Weapons and Tactics Team (SWAT) has been in existence since 1975. This highly trained team is proficient with a variety of weapons including the submachine gun, assault rifle, sniper rifle, and less lethal weaponry. The SWAT Unit conducts high-risk search warrants for the USPP Narcotics and Vice Unit, as well as for allied Federal, State, and local agencies.

SWAT provides vehicular escorts for the President, Vice President, and other dignitaries as requested by the United States Secret Service and other law enforcement agencies. SWAT is responsible for the many demonstrations in the National Capital Region and supports the Operations Division on high-risk incidents on National Park Service property, to include the 2012 successful resolution of the armed barricaded subject at Belle Haven Marina who opened fire on a Coast Guard helicopter. SWAT has also supported the region in numerous high-risk incidents. Most recently, the SWAT Unit responded to the Washington Navy Yard to assist in stopping an active shooter on September 16, 2013.

The New York Field Office has a dedicated SWAT Unit that provides a tactical response throughout the New York Field Office and support patrol operations at the Statue of Liberty National Monument. The NYFO SWAT Unit is utilized for high-profile escorts and protection details for the President of the United States, foreign Heads of State, and other Government Officials visiting the New York City metropolitan area. NYFO SWAT routinely works with partnering tactical teams and protection details from numerous Federal, State and local police agencies. NYFO SWAT most recently provided tactical support for the Occupy Wall Street demonstrations, the President's visit after Hurricane Sandy, 2013 Presidential Inauguration in Washington, DC, and the New York City Marathon.

Over the years, USPP SWAT operators have trained numerous members of Department of the Interior law enforcement personnel and outside agencies in crowd control and dynamics, active shooter response, basic tactics, and mixed martial arts. SWAT members have done static displays for visiting police departments from around the world. In conjunction with the Health and Human Services (HHS), SWAT has trained thousands of personnel from police departments, military units, and fire departments from the United States and abroad in Tactical Emergency Medicine.

SWAT conducts basic SWAT schools, which are routinely attended by officers from outside departments. The physically and mentally challenging course is designed to take police officers and train them to handle high-risk situations working in a team environment.

The SWAT Unit has a proud history and a challenging future. Although there are time-tested tactics that remain the same, new tactical methods and technology continue to evolve that have improved SWAT operations. The SWAT Unit will continue to push towards the cutting edge and break ground for new innovative ways to safely and effectively protect the visitors to our National Icons.

USPP K9 Unit

The United States Park Police K-9 Unit was established in 1959, the first in the Washington, DC, area. Two years earlier, Chief Harold Stewart sent Sergeant Alfred Beye to the Royal Canadian Mounted Police Training Kennel in Nova Scotia, Canada. Sergeant Beye then trained with the Baltimore City Police K-9 Unit and returned to train our first canines. The first canine handlers were members of the Horse Mounted Unit. They trained each canine in different language commands, so that others could not control them. These included Spanish-Indian, German and Japanese. Once they trained the canines, they would trot along next to the Horse Mounted Officer while he patrolled the horse trails. Eventually, the Force only assigned the canine handler the duties of working with a trained canine. By the early 1970's, only one canine team remained. In 1974, the Force added the first explosives detection canines. Also in the mid-1970’s, the Force trained the first narcotics detection canine teams.

The K-9 Unit is divided into two separate disciplines. Patrol/Narcotics Detection K-9 teams are trained for tracking, apprehension, locating evidence, and detection of narcotics. EOD K-9 teams are trained to detect explosive compounds. The K-9 Unit also assists in securing areas prior to the arrival of the President, Vice President, and visiting Heads of State. K-9 teams are employed in the Washington, DC, area, the New York Field Office, and the San Francisco Field Office.
Marine Unit
Marine Unit on patrol in New York Harbor
Marine Patrol Unit

The U.S. Park Police New York Field Office maintains a full-time Marine Patrol Unit. The Marine Patrol Unit operates at two locations. One unit operates at the Liberty District located in New York Harbor and covers the waters around the Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island. The primary role at this location is to support the safety and security mission of the U.S. Park Police. This includes the enforcement of a 150-yard security zone around each island in the Harbor.

The second unit, the Jamaica Bay Unit, covers the waters of Jamaica Bay, which encompasses 39 square miles of water around Brooklyn and Queens and is bordered by JFK International Airport. This Unit provides various services to include law enforcement, homeland security patrols of the airport, marine assistance, search and rescue missions, as well as boating accident investigation.

The Marine Unit in New York maintains several vessels in its fleet that are up to 44 feet in length and range from outboard engines to inboard diesel engines with jet propulsion.
USPP Motorcade
USPP Motorcade
Motorcycle Unit

The Motorcycle Unit was established in the early 1920's with 9 motorcycles and provided mostly local traffic control. As the responsibilities of the Force expanded, so did the role of the Unit. It continued to grow and, by 1947, had 29 motorcycles.

The Motorcycle Unit provides escorts for the President of the United States, all foreign Heads of State, and other dignitaries. It plays a major role in traffic changes and daily enforcement. The Unit members play a key role in all large-scale public events. The Motorcycle Unit has been proudly displayed in major parades in Washington, DC, for over 5 decades. The Motorcycle Unit also provides training to many police departments throughout the United States. In 1996, 3 members of the Motorcycle Unit traveled to Jordan, at the request of the King, to train the Royal Family and members of the Royal Guard. Motorcycle Unit members have competed in many national police motorcycle competitions and have received high recognition for their riding abilities. Members proudly participate with the Make-A-Wish Foundation in helping critically ill children visit Washington, DC.

Today, the Force has assigned motorcycle officers in the Washington metropolitan area and several in the San Francisco Field Office, operating a fleet of Harley Davidson Motorcycles. This Unit has a proud history of over 90 years of police motorcycle service.

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: February 4, 2015