In a series of historic appointments under the Biden Administration, the U.S. Park Police (USPP) has appointed Pamela A. Smith to take command of the oldest federal law enforcement agency established in 1971, making her the first Black woman to lead the USPP in its 230-year history, the agency said.
Smith stepped into her new role on Sunday. She will work with the 560 officers in the force to continue to protect “public, parks and the nation’s most iconic landmarks in the Washington, D.C., New York City, and San Francisco metropolitan areas.”
The 23-year-veteran of the USPP has served the force in different capacities including as patrol officer, deputy chief for the Field Operations Division, an academy instructor at the Federal Law Enforcement Training Center, and commander of the New York Field Office. She was the first woman to lead the New York Field Office as its Major.
In a time where Americans are vocalizing an end to police brutality and systemic racism mostly against people of color, Smith’s appointment is major and she aims to tackle the issues with honesty and integrity.
“I have dedicated my career to the professionalism of law enforcement, and it is my highest honor and privilege to serve as Chief of Police,” Smith said in a statement.
“Today’s officers face many challenges, and I firmly believe challenges present opportunities. I look forward to leading this exemplary team as we carry out our mission with honesty and integrity.”
Within her first 90 days, officer Smith has plans to establish a compulsory wearing of body cameras for all USPP staff. The pilot will take off in San Francisco and later rolled out across the country by the close of the year.
“Body-worn cameras are good for the public and good for our officers,” Smith said in a release. “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.”
She made it clear that the footage from the body cameras will be available on request through the Freedom of Information act duly processed under the Privacy Act and laws and policies.
Smith’s commitment to policing and her excellent work ethic make her the “right person” for the job, according to Sawn Benge, deputy director exercising the delegated authority of the National Park Service.
The USPP has come under attacks, first in 2017 for the shooting death of Bijan Ghaisar in Virginia and most recently for dispersing peaceful Black Lives Matter protesters with smoke canisters and pepper balls at Lafayette Park near the White House where ex-president Donald Trump had a photo op.
“As federal law enforcement officers, the U.S. Park Police officers have a new opportunity each day to give their best to the American people,” added Jennifer Flynn, NPS associate director for visitor and resource protection.
“Chief Smith exemplifies that approach as a colleague and mentor, and she will be instrumental in refining and shaping the future of the organization.”