United States Park Police

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The United States Park Police is the oldest uniformed federal law enforcement agency in the United States. It functions as a security police force with jurisdiction in all National Park Service areas and certain other government lands. In addition to performing the normal crime prevention, investigation, and apprehension functions of a urban police force, the Park Police are responsible for guarding many of the famous monuments in the United States, and also provides protection for the President and visiting dignitaries. The Park Police is a unit of the National Park Service, which is a branch of the Department of the Interior.

The Park Watchmen were first recruited in 1791 by George Washington to protect federal property only in the District of Columbia. The Watchmen were given the same powers and duties as the Metropolitan Police of Washington in 1882, and their name was changed to the present U.S. Park Police in 1919. Their authority first began to expand outside DC in 1929, and today they are primarily responsible for the Gateway National Recreation Area in New York City and the Golden Gate National Recreation Area in San Francisco, as well as the many designated areas in the Washington area, which includes neighboring counties in Maryland and Virginia.

The USPP also oversees the Guard Force which provides National Park Service establishments with unarmed security guard and patrol services usually dealing with access and pass controls, key control, security patrols of buildings and facilities and assisting both the USPP and members of the public.

Park Police must be U.S. citizens over the age of 21, but under 37 when they first apply. They must have at least 60 college credits or 2 years of military service at the time of appointment. Upon completion of training, officers are initially assigned to the Washington area, where the largest contingent of Park Police is located. They are trained at the Federal Law Enforcement Training Center (FLETC) in Brunswick, Georgia.

The current Superintendent of the NPS Training Center at FLETC, Donald W. Usher, was a USPP officer and helicopter pilot who acted heroically on January 13, 1982 following the crash of Air Florida Flight 90 in the Potomac River at Washington DC. A total of 78 persons were killed on that day of both tragedy and extraordinary heroism. Usher and paramedic officer Melvin E. Windsor, were assigned to the Park Police's Aviation unit and were flying Eagle 1, a Bell 206L-1 Long Ranger helicopter from the "Eagle's Nest" base at Anacostia Park. They saved four lives that day at great risk to their own safety. Officers Usher and Windsor were only two of the many Park Police officers who have received the U.S. Department of the Interior's Valor Award.

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