The Washington Post

U.S. Park Police furloughs to end June 1


Officer Joel Taylor works his 6 p.m. to 6 a.m. shift for the U.S. Park Police on May 22. (Eva Russo/FOR THE WASHINGTON POST)

Furloughs for the U.S. Park Police forced by the budget cuts known as sequestration will end June 1, the National Park Service announced Friday, because the agency was able to find other savings.

“We’re ending the furloughs,” Park Service Director Jonathan B. Jarvis said in an interview, a month after the force of 747 sworn officers and support staff members in three cities began staying home one day per pay period in order to take 12 to 14 unpaid days off by Sept. 30. “We have resolved this within the Park Police budget.”

The decision does not stave off staffing shortages through the Memorial Day holiday weekend, when tourists will flood into Washington and the Rolling Thunder motorcycle rally is expected to bring 400,000 bikers to the city. But Park Service officials said that security would not be compromised on the holiday.

The U.S. Park Police force was the only federal law enforcement agency furloughed under the $85 billion in budget cuts.

The police union had brought public attention to the furloughs for months, saying staffing shortages were compromising safety.

“While this is encouraging news . . . the agency is still understaffed, poorly funded and lacks financial control of its own operations,” Ian Glick, president of the U.S. Park Police Fraternal Order of Police, said in a statement.

Del. Eleanor Holmes Norton (D-D.C.), after meeting with the union and making other inquiries, wrote a letter to Senate and House appropriators this week asking them to consider allowing the Park Service to shift money from less-vital accounts to the Park ­Police to stop the furloughs.

“The question is why the Park Service has no furloughs, while this unit that has essential employees does,” Norton said.

The small force patrols national parkland in the urban areas of the Washington region, New York and San Francisco. About 350 officers are based in the capital region, with enforcement responsibility for 27,000 acres in the District, Maryland and Virginia — including the Mall and the monuments — and 144 miles of roadway.

Like thousands of federal employees, from the Defense Department to the Environmental Protection Agency, the Park Police force was told that the cuts that kicked in across the federal government March 1 had to be rigidly applied. Five percent had to be shaved from every agency’s budget by the end of the fiscal year in September.

There was little flexibility to shift money from less-vital services to others, and since the police budget is mostly salaries, the $5 million had to come from there.

But Jarvis said his budget experts “took a really deep dive into the line budget” of the police force, “scrubbing every dollar.”

The savings came from $1 million in furlough days that the police began taking in late April and other cuts to overtime pay, training, planned equipment purchases and travel, Jarvis said.

“It was incredibly unfortunate that we had to furlough the Park Police,” Jarvis said. “We were stuck with the budget that was given to us.”

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Lisa Rein covers the federal workforce and issues that concern the management of government.

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