U.S. Park Police Chief Robert D. MacLean, who has led the uniformed force since 2013, is being promoted to head the Interior Department’s Office of Law Enforcement and Security, overseeing law enforcement programs including the Park Police and officers in the Fish and Wildlife Service and the Bureau of Indian Affairs, the Interior Department said Thursday.
MacLean, 53, has been a Park Police officer for 28 years. He did not return a request for comment. The move was first reported by Paul Wagner of Fox 5 News.
During MacLean’s tenure, unarmed motorist Bijan Ghaisar was fatally shot by two Park Police officers on Nov. 17, 2017. After Ghaisar was shot in a residential neighborhood of Fairfax County, Va., MacLean had his detectives begin a homicide investigation and told Fairfax police they were not needed, exercising the federal jurisdiction of the Park Police. Three days later, MacLean handed the case over to the FBI, though the bureau had not responded to the scene the night of the slaying. Ghaisar’s parents said Park Police officers treated them insensitively while Ghaisar, 25, lay in a coma, refusing to allow them to see their son for more than 10 minutes each hour or to touch him.
No decision has been made about whether to charge the officers involved in the shooting, Lucas Vinyard and Alejandro Amaya. U.S. Attorney Jessie K. Liu and a spokeswoman for the Justice Department’s civil rights division declined to comment earlier this week on when a charging decision might be made. Twenty-two months have passed since Ghaisar was killed.
Ghaisar’s mother, Kelly Ghaisar, was outraged by MacLean’s promotion. “Every time I even start to allow myself to think there might be some hope for justice, I get hit with news like this,” she said Thursday. “Chief MacLean allowed, and possibly ordered, his officers to guard my son’s body and treat my family in the most racist way possible. The U.S. Park Police have sat on this case after killing our son. It is a disgrace that it has taken this long to investigate this murder. This is another example of a law enforcement supervisor getting promoted despite obvious evidence of conduct that would likely end any other career.”
MacLean has remained silent about the shooting, refusing to disclose the names of the officers involved or details about why they shot. After MacLean refused to release videos of the shooting recorded by two Fairfax County police officers, Fairfax Police Chief Edwin C. Roessler Jr. in January 2018 released one of the videos that appeared to document the entire episode. MacLean declined to comment on the video.
When The Washington Post obtained the names of Vinyard and Amaya in the summer of 2018, MacLean refused a Freedom of Information Act request seeking to confirm the two men were Park Police officers, saying it was “personal information” and “would not shed light on an agency’s performance of its statutory duties.”
Vinyard and Amaya’s names were released to the Ghaisar family by Fairfax County police, who publicly disclosed them in a lawsuit against the officers and the Park Police in March. They remain on paid administrative duty. The lawsuit is pending.
The Park Police are not equipped with body cameras or in-car cameras. No federal agents wear cameras. In response to the Ghaisar shooting, Del. Eleanor Holmes Norton (D-D. C.) and Rep. Don Beyer (D-Va.) introduced legislation requiring federal uniformed officers to use such cameras, and they said MacLean told them he supported the legislation. MacLean has not publicly commented on the idea, which has not had a hearing in Congress.
The Park Police have about 700 officers in Washington, New York and San Francisco. MacLean previously worked on the department’s SWAT team and in internal affairs, headed its homeland security division, was the department spokesman, and served on a crime and violence task force with D.C. police and other agencies. MacLean helped oversee security and planning for major events on the Mall such as inaugurations and Independence Day festivities.
His department was criticized in 2017 when Park Police officers twice handcuffed youths selling water on the Mall. “We have to come up with better alternatives to handcuffing or having juveniles handcuffed and exposed out in the public for that long,” MacLean said.
The Park Police were also criticized by an inspector general’s audit in 2014 for “dysfunction” in communication after not finding a traveler who wandered from Reagan National Airport and died.
MacLean’s new job with the Interior Department involves overseeing law enforcement, security and intelligence activities for seven agencies: the Bureau of Indian Affairs, the National Park Service rangers, the Park Police, the Fish and Wildlife Service Office of Law Enforcement, Fish and Wildlife refuge law enforcement officers, the Bureau of Land Management and the Bureau of Reclamation. The law enforcement office is described as the Interior Department’s “focal point to provide program guidance and oversight of the Department’s law enforcement, security, intelligence, counterintelligence/insider threat, and information sharing programs,” according to the office website.
In announcing the job, Susan Combs, the assistant interior secretary for policy, management and budget, said, “Chief MacLean has a stellar record protecting visitors and resources and is proud of the partnerships he has forged that have focused on the mutual law enforcement mission that transcends organizational jurisdiction and structure.” He is expected to begin in his new post on Sept. 16, Combs said in an email to Interior Department employees.
This post has been updated.