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U.S. Park Police Furloughs Couldn't Come At A Worse Time

4:55 PM, Mar 28, 2013   |    comments
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WASHINGTON, DC (WUSA9) -- Commanders at the U.S. Park Police have given their officers furlough notices.

This couldn't have come at a worse time for the US Park Police. This is peak time for tourism with the highest number of visitors and drivers on the parkways in the nation's capital.

WUSA9 has been told the idea of canceling 4th of July fireworks was bounced around. It wasn't given a serious thought but even the police union says the agency can't guarantee safety. Who will man the checkpoints, k-9s and tens of thousands who will descend on the National Mall.

Public Safety Expert Ed Clarke says furloughing the 767 US Park Police employees will be a scheduling nightmare during the height of tourism season in Washington DC.

"Anytime there are less officers on patrol is always a concern."

Ninety-five percent of the agency's budget is salary based. That means the cuts will have to come from man-hours.

Starting next month, officers will be furloughed 14 days and up to 22 through September.

Sgt. Paul Brooks, US Park Police, "what may be affected is the response times but, we'll be out at the icons."

Not only is safety and security a concern for tourists, but the police union says their reach is far beyond the landmarks. They respond to accidents on certain parkways, robberies on the streets and they Medevac patients.

Clarke, "it's going to be a challenge to make sure they balance leave time with safety."

That includes during major events such as the festivities surrounding the cherry blossoms, Rolling Thunder and fourth of July.

Brooks, "what will happen is still to be determined during those events, but we'll definitely be out there working them."

Clarke, "Hopefully the chief will work with the FOP and the union to schedule it properly so no one is put in jeopardy."

One tourist responded saying "I think I'd want to make sure there are plenty of people around to make sure the bad guys don't get the good guys."

US Park Police is hoping to stick with the 14 day furlough but as the letter that went out to the union states, it could be as many as 22 days.

The Fraternal Order of Police is working on Capitol Hill, as we speak, to get legislation through so these furloughs don't happen. It's a $5 million dollar shortfall.

The same is going on with the FBI and Homeland security.

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