The Department of the Interior is creating a taskforce to review and oversee the practices and policies of the U.S. Park Police after a recent report found problems with the police’s handling of protestors in Lafayette Square last year.
Interior Secretary Deb Haaland appointed former Park Police Chief and current director of Interior’s Office of Law Enforcement and Secuirty Robert D. Maclean to lead the taskforce.
Haaland cited a report released by the inspector general regarding problems with the way the Park Police cleared protestors from the square on June 1, 2020, before President Donald Trump walked through the park to take a photo at St. John’s Church.
According to the report, the Park Police were intending to make way for a fence to be erected around the park to protect officers from projectiles thrown at them by protestors. The report also found that D.C. police, not the Park Police, were responsible for using teargas. A separate report is being prepared to determine if the Park Police used appropriate force on the demonstrators.
According to the Washington Post, the report claimed that the Park Police did not adequately warn protestors before deploying officers in tactical gear on horseback to push them back. The report also found that the department did not have a clear dispersal warning policy, and did not have clear communication with the Secret Service.
The Park Police have already begun instituting changes this year before the creation of the taskforce. Park Police Chief Pamela A. Smith announced in May that the department would adopt widespread use of body cameras. As of now, around 1,000 park rangers and 600 Fish and Wildlife officers are wearing body cameras.
Essentially, Haaland’s taskforce will “review and identify opportunities for improvement” in the department’s law enforcement agencies, including the U.S. Park Police.
Her memo included three aims of the taskforce: “(1) strengthen trust in our law enforcement programs; (2) ensure appropriate policy and oversight is implemented; and (3) ensure supportive resources are available for officer mental health, wellness, and safety.”
Larry Cosme, the president of the Federal Law Enforcement Officers Association, embraced the review.
“I think it’s a good way to maintain the safety of law enforcement overall by using best practices and techniques for the safety of the public. We also appreciate knowing that law enforcement has a seat at the table,” he said.
Haaland concluded her memo saying, “I am confident that this Department-wide approach will identify meaningful solutions to assist law enforcement and communities in strengthening trust and collaboration, while ushering the nation into the next phase of community-focused law enforcement.”