- The Washington Times - Thursday, April 6, 2000

Here come the playground police.
The first members of the D.C. Department of Recreation and Parks new 22-person security force are preparing to patrol the city's 75 playgrounds and recreation centers in a few weeks.
Even before they start, the specialized patrol has come under fire from others in law enforcement.
The District is already one of the most heavily policed jurisdictions in the nation, with about 30 different federal and local law enforcement agencies. Besides the local 3,600-member D.C. Metropolitan Police Department, there's the U.S. Park Police, the U.S. Capitol Police, the FBI, the Secret Service, the Postal Police and Metro police. Even D.C. public schools and public housing have their own police forces.
"Do we need another police force in this city? I would say no," said Lou Cannon, president of the Fraternal Order of Police in Washington. "There are dozens of law enforcement agencies that are already empowered to cover those areas."
The Federal Police Coordination Act, introduced by D.C. Delegate Eleanor Holmes Norton, and the D.C. Police Cooperation Act, introduced by D.C. Council member Harold Brazil, an at-large Democrat, empowers the city's police forces to work together and share some jurisdiction.
The uniformed members of the new Park Enforcement Patrol will patrol the city's 3,000 acres of playgrounds, swimming pools, tennis courts and recreation centers, says Larry Brown, spokesman for the D.C. Recreation and Parks Department. They won't carry guns, but they will have batons, pepper spray and handcuffs. Within about nine months, they should all have legal arrest powers, he said.
Mr. Cannon said the new park officers should have police tools if they are expected to do police work.
"To give someone arrest powers without giving them a weapon is ludicrous," said the retired D.C. police officer, who now works for the police force at the federal Bureau of Engraving and Printing.
"You are asking them to arrest people who may be armed, but you don't give them a weapon," Mr. Cannon said. "If you are going to make a police force, make a police force. If they are just going to be tour guides, say so."
The money for the new force about $640,000 in salaries alone comes from the more than $4 million budget increase D.C. Mayor Anthony A. Williams requested for the department. If approved by the D.C. Council, the increase will bring the department's budget to $34.4 million, up from a low of $27.3 million in fiscal 1999, but still lower than the high of about $37 million in 1993. The costs for equipment, including two sport utility vehicles, and several bicycles, has not yet been calculated, said Vandale Campbell, assistant chief of urban services for the department. She said she hopes eventually to expand the security corps.
Mr. Brown said members of the new recreation patrol will help keep drug dealers out of parks at night and break up any fights that might spring up. The officers will have regular assigned patrols and also will respond to emergency requests and special events.
The recruits, who will earn annual salaries of about $29,000, were trained for five weeks by their counterparts who patrol parks in New York City. The training was free of charge to the city under a deal brokered by department Director Robert P. Newman, who formerly worked in New York. The park officers are now training with the D.C. Metropolitan Police Department.

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