[TEXT OMITTED FROM SOURCE] For the last 20 years, Hill has walked in every crowd that has come to lay its troubles -- or occasionally its praise -- at the nation's doorstep. And for the past two years, Hill not only has been in the crowd, he's been in charge of their control and safety.
Hill, 44, retired yesterday from his $50,112-a-year post as chief of the United States Park Police, ending for now the dual black leadership of the two largest security forces in the District, the other being headed by Metropolitan Police Chief Maurice Turner. Hill and Turner were high school mates, class of '54.
Assistant Park Police Chief Lynn Herring has been appointed acting chief.
Hill's job meant overseeing a force of more than 600 officers charged with security on the some of the nation's most famous properties and on all of its urban parklands. Often the responsibility has been awesome, as on the cold day last January when 500,000 people lined the route from Andrews Air Force Base to the White House to greet the American hostages returning from Iran.
When 260,000 labor supporters converged on Washington Sept. 19 for Solidarity Day, Hill was in charge. He kept a 12-hour watch on the day's activities from his headquarters command post, as well as from such vantage points as a park police helicopter, the parade route and the Mall.
Locally, Park Police jurisdiction includes all of Washington's national memorials and parks, in- cluding the Washington Monument and the Mall, Lafayette Square, Rock Creek Park and Meridian Hill Park. It also extends to Great Falls and the Suitland Parkway in Maryland and Mount Vernon Parkway in Virginia.
During major demonstrations, the D.C. Metropolitan Police Department helps direct traffic and provides other assistance.
Hill said the Park Police are often overlooked by a public much more involved in the practices and politics of the city's own police force.
"We're not set up where the people really get to know us," Hill said. "We're not in the neighborhood or city streets. We don't get that close to people."
U.S. Park Police are neutral, low-key and, by federal law, apolitical, Hill said in an interview at Park Police headquarters, tucked neatly behind the 14th Street Bridge toward the end of Haines Point.
After stints in the Armed Forces, both Hill and Turner decided to pursue law enforcement careers. While Turner joined the police department, Hill decided to finish college first.
Hill graduated from Howard University with a degree in psychology and worked for a year as a prison guard at Lorton Reformatory. When a fellow prison guard left to join the Park Police, Hill followed.
"Believe it or not, I'd never heard of the Park Police, even though I'd lived here all my life," recalled Hill, who spent the better part of 27 years living in the family home at 153 U Street NW.
Hill rose swiftly through Park Police ranks. In 1961 he was a private on foot patrol. He never became a horse-mounted officer because at 215 pounds, he was more than any horse should have to bear, he joked. In 1975 he became deputy chief of operations. In 1979, he succeeded Chief Jerry L. Wells.
"I was promoted every time I applied. And I applied every time I was eligible," said Hill. He credits his success to hard work and good timing.
Hill said he joined the force before affirmative action mandates, when minorities were not routinely hired. However, minority hiring was a main goal of his administration, and of the 24 Park Police graduates in 1980 from the Federal Law Enforcement Training Center, eight were black and eight were female.
Many times during his career, Hill has been at the vanguard of some of the most significant public events in the nation's history.
"A lot of anxieties were built up . . . that all hell was gonna break loose," Hill reminisced recently about the peaceful 1963 civil rights demonstration that brought Martin Luther King Jr. and more than 250,000 marchers to the Lincoln Memorial.
A few years later Hill walked the perimeter of Resurrection City where 2,500 people camped on the Mall in support of civil rights and programs for the poor. "I can still recall the odors coming out of the tents. The sounds. The animosity toward the police. The suffering," Hill said. "And the mud: it rained and rained and rained."
Hill's memories also go back to 1971 and the three-day May Day anti-war demonstration during which more than 9,000 protestors were arrested. "I was locking people up, battling hippies and yippies."
But one of the most impressive displays of patriotism Hill can recall was the return of the hostages from Iran. "I think we all feel kind of good about the red, white and blue," he said.
Of all the memories, however, he regrets most never spending Independence Day with his children. Instead, he has been downtown directing traditional activities on the Mall.
Hill and his wife Gail live in Silver Spring with their children, Michelle, 9 and Anthony, 14. Hill, who said he is negotiating with the Park Police Retirement Board over his pension but expects it to be set at between $30,000 and $35,000, is considering jobs in real estate and housing. The family hasn't made plans yet for the next July 4, but in the meantime, Hill said, one thing is certain:
"I don't think I'll be going down to the Monument grounds."