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Environmental Investigator Named Chief Of U.S. Park Police

A former Secret Service agent and Environmental Protection Agency investigator as named chief of the U.S. Park Police, putting an outsider in charge of the agency for the first time in recent years. Jessica Taylor, 47, directs the EPA’s criminal investigations division, where she has worked for the past six years, managing a team of 200 staff members and investigators enforcing statutes such as the Clean Air Act. She replaces Pamela Smith, who was named chief in 2021 and stepped down a year later to take a position in the Washington, D.C., police department, reports the Washington Post.

Smith was a longtime commander in the Park Police, as was predecessor Robert MacLean. Taylor has also spent nearly seven years in the Agriculture Department’s inspector general’s office and nearly 11 years as a Secret Service agent. Taylor was hired by Jennifer Flynn, the Park Service’s associate director of visitor and resource protection. The Park Police patrol the national parks and monuments in the Washington, New York City and San Francisco. The agency said Taylor will oversee “a workforce” of 560 employees in the three cities. Taylor takes over a police department that has been criticized for its failing communications system and that is dealing with fallout from a fatal shooting by one of its officers last month that triggered a federal civil rights investigation. In a previous Park Police killing, of unarmed motorist Bijan Ghaisar in 2017, there was no body-camera footage because Park Police did not use body cameras or in-car cameras. When Smith took over in 2021, she took steps to equip officers with body cameras, resulting in footage capturing the killing of Martin. Taylor said, My commitment is to ‘people first, mission always,’ as we protect people, protect parks, and above all operate with transparency and integrity.” The Park Police have faced criticism for not being transparent. It has a long-standing policy of not releasing the names of officers involved in shootings.


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