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FLEOA Supports USPP Response in Lafayette Park

FLEOA Supports the U.S. Park Police Response to Violent Criminal Activity in Lafayette Park

July 27, 2020


Honorable Raul M. Grijalva   

Chairman, Natural Resources Committee

U.S. House of Representatives

Washington, DC 20515



Honorable Rob Bishop

Ranking Member, Natural Resources Committee

U.S. House of Representative

Washington, DC 20515

 

Chairman Grijalva and Ranking Member Bishop, 

We are writing to you concerning the upcoming oversight hearing entitled Unanswered Questions About the U.S. Park Police's June 1 Attack on Peaceful Protesters at Lafayette Square.  While we support appropriate oversight of federal agencies, once again the hearing title seems to be a biased depiction of factual events that occurred.  Irrespective of the title, we are hopeful that during this hearing the Committee will at least make an effort to address the level of violence inflicted upon U.S. Park Police and other federal law enforcement officers that occurred over the many days of violent civil disobedience, which was lacking in the first hearing. 

In support of this, we’d like to point out that the Chicago Police Department recently released a video showing that during a July 18th protest for social justice, some members of the protest transformed into violent agitators.  Those agitators used umbrellas to shield people in the crowd, who changed into all black clothing. They then distributed frozen water bottles, rocks and explosive devices that were thrown at officers. They also used sharpened PVC pipe as a weapon against the Chicago Police Officers who were dressed in their standard police uniforms. According to the Chicago Police Superintendent Brown, "What began as a peaceful protest devolved into a very dangerous situation in which mob action deliberately sought to injure officers, provoke retaliation and damage property. Forty-nine Chicago police officers were injured…eighteen of whom were sent to area hospitals for their injuries.” 

This video is proof that violent agitators and anarchists have inserted themselves into otherwise peaceful protests and have co-opted them with the intent of attacking law enforcement officers and destroying property, as FLEOA and other law enforcement agencies, including the U.S. Park Police, have contended.  The Chicago Police Superintendent further stated, "These peaceful protests have been hijacked and that’s one of the things I think people need to consider.” Due to that, he ordered all Chicago Police Officers to wear any and all protective gear when protests appear because they cannot trust that all the attendees will be peaceful and they must protect their officers.

As the nation's largest non-partisan, not-for-profit association representing federal law enforcement officers, including officers from the U.S. Park Police, it is FLEOA’s and all 65 federal law enforcement agency heads’ top priority to ensure officers are supported and protected, and it should be Congress’ top priority, too.  It is our view, from talking to our members present in Lafayette Park on the night in question, that those same elements the Chicago Police Superintendent described were present in Lafayette Park on that date and other dates, which led to the burning of St. John’s Church, destruction of most of Lafayette Park and over 100 injuries reported by federal law enforcement officers present in Lafayette Park. 

While we support oversight of federal agencies and an examination of the nature of the response during these violent riots, we expect our Congress and the Committee to conduct its oversight role with balance and also examine the level of violence committed against officers in Lafayette Park.  As we asserted in our original letter, that balance should include a review of what laws may have been violated, the overall conduct of violent agitators at the time of the incident, the ratio of officers to protesters, the number of arrests made, the numbers of injuries sustained by both protesters and officers, and the agency policies in place at the time.  

We also feel it is critical that the structure and staffing level of the U.S. Park Police be considered.  Within the Department of Interior, a true law enforcement leadership and reporting structure is non-existent; the U.S. Park Police are forced to take direction from and report to non-law enforcement personnel in the National Park Service.  The U.S. Park Police have also been subjected to draconian budget cuts, entailing, among other things, an over 50% staffing cut over the last 20 years, due to their dependency on budget prioritization within a non-law enforcement agency.  In order to address this crisis, it is critical that the U.S. Park Police have a law enforcement hierarchy and reporting structure direct to the Secretary of Interior and direct line item funding within the Department of Interior budget.  

FLEOA supports the role of Congress to conduct oversight and welcomes a conversation about ensuring that all laws are followed.  We also recognize that law enforcement officers have been painted negatively for too long, which has only emboldened these violent attacks against them, due in part to some elected officials perpetuating a false narrative that casts all law enforcement in a negative light.  As they take to the streets every day to serve and protect their communities, the vilification of these brave men and women must stop.  It does not serve the administration of justice, the rule of law, or public safety.  We know that there is a better way that avoids vilification and follows facts and an honest discussion, and we hope the Committee does that. 

It is very difficult to take to the streets every day knowing that it could be your last.  The negative rhetoric makes that job more difficult, particularly when it comes from elected officials who view these events not through the prism of public safety, but with an eye towards helping their own electoral prospects.  We support and applaud the work of the officers of the U.S. Park Police and support their efforts to help make America safer.                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                         Sincerely,     

Larry Cosme

National President

                                                                                                        
cc: House Natural Resources Committee