Seven year fight pays off
Written by Cynthia Brown
It was a sweet victory after a stressful, expensive slog through the legal system. "My goal was always to go back to my job as chief of the Park Police, Chambers said. She was serving as chief at the Riverdale Park Police Department in Maryland when the decision was issued.
She resumed her duties at the U.S. Park Police on January 31. Chambers was a 27-year law enforcement veteran, six of those years working on the executive level, when she was fired by officials from the Department of the Interior for giving an interview to the Washington Post where she stated she did not have adequate resources in the post-9/11 environment to provide law enforcement protection to people visiting national parks and historic sites as well as protect the sites themselves.
As chief of the U.S. Park Police, Teresa Chambers was responsible for the security of some of America's most valued historical sites including the Washington Monument, the Statue of Liberty, the Golden Gate Bridge area, and the area surrounding the White House- all top targets for a terrorist attack. The Washington Post interview ran on December 2, 2003. Written by reporter, David A. Fahrenthold, with the headline "Park Police Duties Exceed Staffing," Chambers was quoted as saying traffic accidents had increased on the Baltimore-Washington Parkway, where two, instead of the recommended four, officers were on patrol.
She also noted that she did not have enough manpower to protect the national park land in the District of Columbia. On December 5 Chief Chambers was stripped of her gun and badge, placed on non-duty status, and escorted out of the building by armed National Park Service Special Agents back to the United States Park Police Headquarters. When Chief Chambers questioned this treatment, normally reserved for people accused of criminal acts, Dept. of Interior officials refused to explain their behavior.
One week later, officials called her in and told her they would not pursue administrative charges against her if she would agree to a permanent gag order along with a reduction in her powers as chief. In addition, her First Amendment rights would be restricted, she would abdicate the right to freely communicate with Congress, and she would be forced to commit an illegal prohibited personnel act by transferring a whistleblower. When she refused to agree, the agency's response was to force her to take an administrative leave for seven months. She was fired in July, 2004.
A U.S. Court of Appeals ruled in April of this year that Chambers' statements were a contributing factor in the agency's decision to take adverse action against her and that these actions were protected under the Whistleblower Protection Act. "I owe a special debt of gratitude to the Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility (PEER) including Executive Director Jeff Ruch, PEER attorneys, associate attorneys, and staff members for their unwavering support and vigorous defense of this case," Chambers said.
"I would also like to thank the National Treasury Employees Union attorneys and members for their expertise and advocacy throughout." She also sends heartfelt thanks to the hundreds of thousands of supporters who stood with her throughout her long fight for justice. "Their words of wisdom and support gave me the strength to keep on fighting." For more information on the Teresa Chambers' seven year ordeal, visit www.honestchief.com.
Visitors can learn more about the battle, read pertinent documents, and listen to audio tapes of press releases, stories, and interviews regarding the case.