police reform

US Park Police Names Pamela Smith Its 1st Black Female Chief

The U.S. Park Police oversee national parks and federal property including the National Mall

U.S. Park Police officers on horses patrol the National Mall close to the Washington Monument ahead of the inauguration Jan. 20, 2021.
Stephanie Keith/Getty Images

The U.S. Park Police on Thursday named Pamela Smith as its new chief, making her the first Black woman to lead the 230-year-old law enforcement agency.

Smith, a 23-year veteran of the force, announced she would begin her term by establishing body-worn cameras for all Park Police officers.

"This is one of the many steps we must take to continue to build trust and credibility with the public we have been entrusted to serve," Smith said in a statement, adding that body-worn cameras are "good for the public and good for our officers."

The camera program would begin in San Francisco within 90 days and spread to the rest of the country by the end of the year, the statement said.

Smith inherits an extensive law enforcement agency that frequently finds itself under a spotlight at pivotal historical moments. The U.S. Park Police oversee national parks and federal property, including the National Mall.

Last summer, during tense protests over police brutality and racial inequity, Park Police were involved with violently clearing peaceful protestors from Lafayette Park near the White House so that then-President Donald Trump could pose in front of a church while holding up a Bible. The agency ended up embroiled in controversy over the tactics and munitions used against peaceful demonstrators.

Smith's appointment follows that of Yogananda Pittman, who last month become the first Black person and first woman to be acting chief of the U.S. Capitol Police. She inherited an agency in turmoil after being overwhelmed in the Jan. 6 attack on the Capitol by Trump supporters.

Copyright AP - Associated Press
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