Respect Equality

Park Police taps first Black female chief

united states park police national park service pamela smith chief black woman black lives matter NPS USPP
Pamela A. Smith Chief of the U.S. Park Police NPS photo

Story at a glance

  • After more than two decades in law enforcement, Pamela Smith was appointed to lead the U.S. Park Police, helping oversee more than 85 million acres of federal park land.
  • She was also the first woman to lead the New York Field Office.

On Thursday, the 230-year-old U.S. National Park Service (NPS) announced that Pamela A. Smith, a Black woman, would serve as the new Chief of the United States Park Police (USPP).

Smith will take the helm of the USPP on Feb. 28 following a 23-year career in the USPP. In her new role, she will oversee the officers sworn to protect and monitor more than 85 million acres of NPS land. 

“Chief Smith’s commitment to policing as public service and her willingness to listen and collaborate make her the right person to lead the U.S. Park Police at this pivotal moment in our country,” Shawn Benge, the deputy director exercising the delegated authority of the NPS director, said in a press release. “Her personal and professional experience make her acutely aware of and ready to meet the challenges and responsibilities that face U.S. Park Police and law enforcement agencies across the nation.”

She was also the first woman to lead the New York Field Office as its Major. 

Smith’s first action as chief will be to mandate every USPP officer wear body cameras within 90 days of her appointment. As the former assistant commander of the San Francisco Field Office, she will first implement the program in the Northern California city, then apply it across the country.

She notes that as a law enforcement professional, her goal as chief of the USPP would be to help officers overcome modern challenges.

“Body-worn cameras are good for the public and good for our officers, which is why I am prioritizing implementing a body-worn camera program within my first 90 days,” Smith said. “This is one of the many steps we must take to continue to build trust and credibility with the public we have been entrusted to serve.”

The support for body cameras to be donned and activated by active-duty police officers was vocalized during the Black Lives Matter protests of Summer 2020.

Earlier in her career, Smith won multiple awards for her work in law enforcement, including the Women in Federal Law Enforcement Public Service Award, United States Marshal Service Distinguished Law Enforcement Career and the National Park Service Equal Employment Opportunity Program Recognition of Outstanding Excellence.