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Robert E. Langston, Chief
United States Park Police
Testimony to the House Committee on Appropriations
Subcommittee on the District of Columbia
June 24, 1998




Dorothy Brizill
Bonnie Cain
Jim Dougherty
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Good afternoon, my name is Robert E. Langston, Chief of the United States Park Police. l am grateful for the opportunity to testify today on behalf of the men and women who comprise this vital organization. I will begin by expressing my sincere appreciation for the funding that this committee has provided to the United States Park Police this past year. These funds have already had a significant impact on our ability to provide services to the citizens of the District of Columbia and the millions of visitors to our Nation's Capital. However, there still remains several unfilled needs that are critical to the efficient operation of our Force. For example, severe personnel shortages, inadequate facilities, antiquated communications equipment, lack of training funds, and a need to replace our police helicopter are some of significant concerns facing the United States Park Police. In order to ensure the continuation of the highly efficient and professional services we provide to the District of Columbia, these issues must be addressed.

By way of background, the United States Park Police, established in 1791, has a long history of cooperation with the citizens of the District of Columbia and the Metropolitan Police Department. In 1882, Congress gave the United States Park Police “.... The same powers and duties as the Metropolitan Police of the District of Columbia.” Our primary purpose is to patrol National Park Service property, which comprises approximately 22% of the District of Columbia, as well as surrounding environs.

The United States Park Police generates revenue for the District of Columbia through the issuance of violation notices for parking, traffic, and civil infractions. Between 1995 and 1997, the United States Park Police issued approximately 180,733 citations with an estimated revenue of $11,749,160.

Support provided to the District of Columbia by the United States Park Police


  • Uniformed officers handle numerous incidents on city streets while patrolling National Park areas. In 1997, Force officers handled 46,619 cases in the Washington metropolitan area, of which 5,567 cases were on city streets. This is approximately 12% of the total number of cases we handled in the Washington metropolitan area and represents an increase of 771 cases from the previous year.
  • Plainclothes officers aggressively pursue criminal activity within parks and adjacent areas. The officers assigned to these units focus attention on “quality of life crimes.” Several special initiatives were created in conjunction with the Metropolitan Police Department and the District of Columbia Housing Authority Police to investigate crimes such as drunkenness, soliciting, vagrancy, vending, and indecent exposure.
  • Narcotics and Vice Unit officers identify major drug couriers and other criminal activity in parks and work in conjunction with the Metropolitan Police Department and other Federal agencies to investigate sources outside parks and in adjacent neighborhoods. The officers also work interdiction details on selected roadways leading into and out of the city. These details are invaluable in the detection of large quantities of illegal drugs and weapons being transported into and out of the District of Columbia. In addition, the officers continue to focus on the prostitution problem in the city by working undercover operations in the park areas at Thomas Circle, Logan Circle, and Mount Vernon Square. Their efforts, combined with the work of the Metropolitan Police Department, have significantly impacted this type of crime in these locations.
  • Coordinated efforts with the Metropolitan Police Department and citizens in neighborhoods surrounding parks are designed to eradicate open-air drug markets and other criminal activity. Several Force officers assigned collateral duties that involve the investigation of gang and graffiti crime. They work with officers from the Metropolitan Police Department documenting, investigating, and sharing information on gangs and graffiti.. We have been instrumental in providing assistance to the Metropolitan Police Department in the investigation of environmental crimes. With the assistance of members of the United States Park Police Criminal Investigations Branch and the National Park Service, the “Illegal Dumping Enforcement Amendment Act of 1998” was recently signed into law. This law greatly enhances the penalties for the dumping of solid, medical, and hazardous waste. Our personnel have investigated numerous resource violation cases on National Park Service property and 72 resource violation cases on city property. Detectives from our Criminal Investigations Branch are assisting the Metropolitan Police Department in developing an Environmental Crime Unit and are providing a 40-hour block of instruction in environmental crime scenes and the use of aerial support in the investigation of environmental crimes.
  • The 1998 Crime and Violence Task Force began on March 30, 1998. The Task Force consists of 9 officers who target those areas on city streets adjacent to the parks that have been identified by the Metropolitan Police Department as high crime areas. Forty-one percent of the cases handled thus far by the Task Force occurred in Park areas; 59 percent of the cases were from the designated impact areas within the city. Members of the Task Force have participated in joint operations with other law enforcement agencies including the Metropolitan Police Department, District of Columbia Housing Authority Police, ATF, and the FBI. These operations included the 7th and O St. Operation" which targeted street level drug trafficking by the "Kennedy Dog Pound Crew". During the execution of numerous search warrants in this case, 9 main dealers were arrested, and 3 handguns and approximately 4 pounds of marijuana were seized. Also, the Force has assisted in several homicide investigations and on one occasion, in response to a citizen tip, arrested two fugitives, one of whom was wanted for homicide. The officers have also been requested to intensify street patrols within the Seventh District of the Metropolitan Police Department. These patrols target street gangs and violent criminals in an effort to identify gang members. Because of a lack of funding, we will be forced to disband this operation on September 30.

Task Force Statistics from March 30 to June 16. 1998

Total case numbers 281
Total arrests 140
Value of drugs seized $24,204
Value of cars seized/recovered $112,400
Currency seized #3,477
TVN's issued 257
Guns recovered 3


  • The United States Park Police Aviation Unit performs criminal searches (pursuit of individuals, vehicles, and rooftop checks), surveillance, medevacs, search and rescue (especially from the Potomac and Anacostia Rivers). It is the only law enforcement aviation unit in the District of Columbia and supports not only the Metropolitan Police Department, but also the U.S. Secret Service, the U.S. Marshals Service, the U.S. Department of State, and other Federal agencies. (See attached enclosures for statistics.)
  • Special events. The United States Park Police and the Metropolitan Police Department share the unique and awesome task of handling numerous demonstrations and special events that occur in our Nation's Capital. Both departments work in conjunction with one another and have formed a successful partnership in controlling the large crowds associated with these demonstrations. Events such as the Million Man March, the Presidential Inauguration and the Marine Corps Marathon are examples of the cooperation and the successful coordination between our departments. In addition we also provide support and assistance (patrol, traffic control, parking enforcement) to the communities adjacent to park properties in connection with park events such as those at the Carter Baron Amphitheater and the Fort Dupont Summer Theater.
  • Presidential and dignitary protection. The United States Park Police shares responsibilities with the Metropolitan Police Department and the United States Secret Service in providing protection for the President of the United States, foreign dignitaries and other Heads of State. We provide motorcycle, cruiser, and aviation support for escorts as well as foot patrols at public gatherings. In addition, the Force patrols the perimeter of the White House, as well as the parks adjacent thereto.
  • On call police services at the District of Columbia juvenile detention facilities in Maryland are provided pursuant to a Memorandum of Understanding with the District of Columbia. The United States Park Police responds to all criminal complaints and incidents at these facilities. Additionally, the Aviation Unit flies medevac missions from the District of Columbia's Lorton Prison facility in Virginia.


  • Drug Abuse and Resistance Education (DARE) — Since 1989, the United States Park Police has taken a leading role in the Washington metropolitan area in the presentation of the DARE program, which is a comprehensive, community-based education program to teach children the dangers of drug use and other issues, such as gang and school violence. Our DARE officers are role models for the children and provide guidance to those in need. Currently, the United States Park Police has a contingent of officers who present the DARE program to various schools within the District of Columbia.
  • United States Park Police officers and officials attend meetings with citizens, Advisory Neighborhood Commissions, local government officials, and other police departments in an effort to create a strong community presence, as well as to exchange information. Our Station Commanders address many issues raised at these meetings by implementing strategies to correct community problems. The Force recently opened a satellite station at Ft. Dupont Park in Anacostia, and anticipates a new station at Dupont Circle. This enables officers to be more accessible to the community in and around these areas.
  • United States Park Police Explorer Post 1791 provides local children with a unique scouting program in which they participate in law enforcement events such as parades, visitor services, and national Explorer programs. The Explorer program is designed for youth between the ages of 14 and 21 and is centered on two specific high schools within the inner city of Washington, DC (Eastern and Anacostia High Schools). The Force has implemented a new summer youth hiring program that will take effect this month. District youths affiliated with the United States Park Police Explorer Post will be hired by the Force as summer employees and will be exposed to all aspects of law enforcement.


  • 1994 Anti-Crime and Violence Task Force — In response to a directive from the President of the United States, United States Park Police officers were assigned to the Crime and Violence Task Force. This task force provided police services to an area in the District of Columbia that had one of the highest homicide and violent crime rates in the nation. The task force was comprised of 50 officers and lasted approximately 9 months. The officers handled 4,593 case incidents, made 1,643 arrests, seized 117 firearms and approximately $325,646 worth of illegal drugs, recovered 135 stolen automobiles, arrested 352 wanted persons, and issued 2,549 traffic violations. The crime rate in the area was reduced more than 65 percent as compared to the previous year. For their outstanding accomplishments, this Task Force was presented with the Fifth District Community Empowerment Policing Award from the Metropolitan Police Department and the U.S. Department of Justice Award Service from the U.S. Attorney for the District of Columbia.


Personnel Shortages (Funding requested $ 4,300,000)

Despite continued personnel shortages, the United States Park Police is committed to providing service to the citizens of the District of Columbia. The authorized strength of the United States Park Police is 793, of which 569 are assigned to the Washington metropolitan area. Currently, only 450 of these positions are filled. The United States Park Police need to hire 119 officers to overcome the personnel shortage created by resignations, retirements, and budget constraints. These shortages adversely affect the operational readiness of the United States Park Police to address the District of Columbia needs for law enforcement support, community-based programs, and aviation support (to include medical emergencies).

The National Park Service itself, through various legislation, has acquired new lands and created additional monuments and memorials within the National Capital Area. These attractions, such as the new Pennsylvania Avenue National Park and the FDR and Korean War Memorials, have placed more demands on the United States Park Police for personnel to protect these new treasures and their visitors. We also have been forced to reassign officers from the Washington metropolitan area to our New York and San Francisco Field Offices to meet increased law enforcement needs dictated by the acquisition of Fort Wadsworth, the Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island, and the Presidio.

Currently 175 officers are eligible to retire. Without an increase in base funds to support startup and salary costs for new police officers, continued erosion of the operational readiness of the United States Park Police will occur. Our ability to handle critical incidents, such as large demonstrations and terrorist threats that face the residents of this city as well as visitors to our Nation's monuments and parks, will be severely curtailed.

Helicopters (Funding requested $13,200,000)

Currently, the United States Park Police provides the only law enforcement aerial support program within the District of Columbia. We have flown 207 law enforcement missions for the city and provided 30 air/medical evaluations, and a hoist rescue. I am providing to the committee a more detailed report regarding our aviation support to the District of Columbia.

At present, we have two operational helicopters. Our single-engine Bell 206L3 helicopter is outdated and should be replaced because of excessive flight hours. The Office of Aircraft Services, Department of the Interior, recommends that law enforcement aircraft be replaced at the 5,000 flight-hour level. Our Bell 206L3 has attained 7,684 flight hours. We are very concerned about stress cracks that have developed in the airframe of this aircraft, as well as other signs of wear and deterioration.

Our second helicopter is a medium-sized, twin engine Bell 412SP. This helicopter has proven to be reliable, safe, and efficient, and has met all of our medevac, rescue, SWAT, and counter-terrorism needs. However, increased demands on the use of the aircraft in support of the District of Columbia has rapidly accelerated the flight hours on this aircraft. This helicopter 3,290 flight hours and undergoes 8 to 10 weeks of downtime annually for the performance of required scheduled maintenance. Such lengthy down time of the helicopter jeopardizes the safety of residents of the District of Columbia and severely limits our capability to provide aerial support for both our own operations and those of the Metropolitan Police Department.

Equipment and Facility Shortfalls (Equipment Funds requested $1,300,000)

Years of budget reductions and cost absorptions within our base funds have, for the most part, depleted our equipment replacement program. This has resulted in less than minimal replacement of our fleet of motorized vehicles, outdated radio equipment (with frequent breakdowns), ADP equipment needs, as well as the severe curtailment of our repair program. In order for the United States Park Police to maintain an adequate fleet of motorized vehicles and other related equipment, a base increase will be required to address our most critical needs and provide future base funding to allow for suitable and timely replacement/repair of required equipment. Lack of adequate equipment has severe adverse effects on officer safety and morale.


In conclusion, we are concerned for the safety of the citizens of the District of Columbia and the millions of tourists who visit each year. The United States Park Police continues to play an important role in strengthening law enforcement efforts in the Nation's Capital while operating with limited resources. As you prepare to mark up the fiscal year 1999 District of Columbia Appropriations Bill, we urge you to support the United States Park Police in providing funds for a new helicopter, additional personnel, adequate facilities, and updated communications equipment. These funds are critical to our operational readiness.

United States Park Police Aviation Support To the District of Columbia

7.5 month period
(10/01/97 - 6/15/98)

The United States Park Police Aviation Section, in support of the District of Columbia, has flown the following missions during the last 7.5 month period:

1. Metropolitan Police Department - 205 Law Enforcement Missions

2. District of Columbia Fire Department - 30 Air/Medical Evacuations and 1 Hoist Rescue

3. District of Columbia Housing Authority Police - 2 Law Enforcement Missions.


1. Aircraft Costs - Total of 92.2 flight hours at a cost of $43,045

2. Manpower Costs - Total of 475.2 man-hours at a cost $19,008

3. TOTAL COST of $62,053

It is projected that the total expenditure by the end of September 1998 will exceed $150,000 based on the following factors:

  • Criminal activity increases dramatically during the spring and summer months
  • Air/Medical Evacuations increase during the spring and summer, particular pediatric patients once school is out
  • The U.S. Park Police Aviation Section is conducting training sessions for the Metropolitan Police Officers in the proper utilization of Aerial Law Enforcement Assets
  • Formal agreements and Memorandums of Understanding are being drafted and implemented between United States Park Police and the Metropolitan Police regarding aircraft usage
  • Morale is improving within the rank and file of the Metropolitan Police Department resulting in arrest volumes increasing

The projected cost of $150,000, in MPD support, would represent an increase of approximately 25% in the United States Park Police Aviation operating budget.

Significant events during this time period include:

  • Medical Evacuation of an MPD Officer involved in a weapons explosion
  • 38 Felony Criminal Apprehensions (directly attributable to the helicopter support)
  • Transporting two MPD Detectives to North Carolina to interview and return with a suspect accused in the slaying of one of their officers
  • Criminal Search and apprehension of a suspect wanted in the wounding of an MPD Officer in N.E.
  • Observation and reporting of a fire in a housing complex on 46th Place S.E.
  • Observation and reporting of a fire at Fletchers Boat House in N.W.
  • Vehicle chase of an armed car jacking suspect which occurred in the District and resulted in MPD ground units losing it in Prince Georges County, and aircraft successfully directing Prince Georges County Police in for the apprehension
  • Numerous responses for sinking and overturned boats assisting D.C. Fire Hoist Rescue and Medical Evacuation of a fall victim at Chain Bridge
  • 22 Confirmed Felony apprehensions where aircraft was instrumental in making the apprehension
  • Hazardous Materials Response in 3rd Street Tunnel where aircraft flew in the Nuclear Response Team from Andrews Air Force Base
  • Barricaded Burglary suspect on Colorado Ave., N.W., where aircraft acted as observation and command/control platform resulting in the arrests of two suspects
  • MPD Environmental Unit flight that resulted in the discovery of two very large dump sites resulting in several arrests
  • Aircraft observed a person jump off of Memorial Bridge and successfully directed MPD Harbor units in for the rescue
  • Vehicle chase of a Kidnapping suspect where aircraft followed and directed MPD ground units in to make a successful apprehension @ Rt. 295 and Pennsylvania Ave.

United States Park Police Aviation Support to the Metropolitan Police Department

(10/1/97 – 6/15/98)

The following list is compiled according to category of support, number of missions performed within category, flight time, and cost.

Criminal search 90 40 $18,700
Vehicle Chase 25 6.8 $3,428
Foot Chase 8 3.1 $1,635
Rooftop Check 32 10.0 $4,586
Recovered Stolen Auto/Lojack Hit 1 .7 $269
Aerial Surveillance 2 .8 $602
Aerial Support 12 2.5 $1,404
Other Law Enforcement Searches 13 7.5 $2,981
Lost Person Search 8 2.3 $922
Critical Mission Person Search 5 1.8 $987
Suicidal Persons Search 2 .3 $226
Miscellaneous Search 3 1.3 $795
Warrant Service/SWAT Deployment 4 3.1 $1,193
TOTALS 205 80.2 $36,728

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