WASHINGTON, DC – Furloughs have forced the U.S. Park Police to cut officers’ overtime hours, which could effectively place some emergency calls on hold — even as large crowds are expected on the National Mall this Memorial Day weekend.
In a recent letter obtained exclusively by News4, the department’s chief told the force his goal is reduce overtime hours. Due to the sequester, Park Police officers will be furloughed at least 14 days, and as many as 22, through September.
“What it means for most people is that they’re going to see less officers,” said Ian Glick, union representative for the U.S. Park Police Fraternal Order of Police. “There is going to be less officers on patrol. Less officers who are visible, means that there is less deterrent to crime.”
Jessica Pezzola, a Baltimore resident who visits D.C. frequently, said she’s concerned about security over the upcoming holiday weekend.
“You’re going to have a lot more people around here,” she said on the National Mall Wednesday. You’re going to have to have heightened security.”
Reduced coverage could also lead to traffic nightmares, Glick said.
Since traffic accidents are classified as “non-essential” calls, they could put on hold for at least an hour if they occur near a shift change. “The officers who will be responding will be waiting until the next shift,” Glick said.
Officers change shifts at 6 p.m. and 6 a.m. — near both morning and evening rush hours.
Other non-essential calls are classified as:
- Disabled and abandoned vehicles
- Property damage
- Permit disputes
- Animal wildlife incidents
- Minor drug violations
Aside from the usual tourists expected each holiday weekend, thousands of bikers take to the D.C. streets for the the Rolling Thunder motorcycle ride each year on Memorial Day weekend.
D.C. Del. Eleanor Holmes Norton said she opposes the cuts.
“You can not furlough police because by doing so, you furlough public safety,” she said.
Norton sent a letter to House and Senate appropriators asking for more funding for federal police in the next fiscal year. She’s still waiting for a response.