Pamela Smith, who was named chief of the U.S. Park Police in February of last year, retired Friday after 24 years in the department. No reason was given, the Washington Post reports. Smith, 54, had been a longtime commander and was the first Black woman to lead the agency in its 231-year history. She had been the first woman to lead the Park Police’s New York field office, and she had been deputy chief of the Homeland Security Division and the Field Operations Division. Park Police officers are stationed in federal parks in and around Washington, D.C., New York City and San Francisco. Smith inherited a troubled department, with issues that had been becoming increasingly public in recent months. It was unclear Friday night how much progress had been made in addressing these issues.
In February, the Interior Department’s inspector general issued a harsh report on the Park Police’s dispatch center in Washington, which it said police commanders had ignored for years. The report said automated emergency alarms are sent to a room separate from the dispatchers that they cannot hear, allowing a flood at Arlington National Cemetery to go unaddressed, that dispatchers are poorly trained and understaffed, and that mold and bird droppings are rampant in the building. On Wednesday, the Park Police officers’ union filed a five-page complaint with the inspector general saying the agency was “engaged in gross negligence and mismanagement at great risk to the safety of the public due to understaffing of sworn personnel.” The Fraternal Order of Police’s Park Police Labor Committee said staffing for the three field offices had dropped from 639 officers to 494, lower than the force size in 1975.