Police Departments

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In DC, there are dozens of law enforcement and private security agencies with overlapping jurisdiction. Many of these agencies have specialized missions and would not typically respond to a protest or demonstration. The police agencies most likely to respond are:

  • DC Metropolitan Police Department
    • The primary law enforcement agency in DC
    • The chief of police is appointed by the DC mayor
    • Has jurisdiction over all city-owned property
    • Provides support to most federal and private law enforcement agencies in DC
    • Operates the cell block at which all persons in DC who are held overnight after an arrest are detained (300 Indiana Ave NW)
  • WMATA Metro Transit Police
    • The law enforcement agency for the bus and rail mass transit system operated by the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority (WMATA)
    • The chief of police is appointed by WMATA
    • Has jurisdiction and arrest powers over a 1500 square mile “transit zone” that encompasses the WMATA bus and rail facilities in DC, Maryland, and Virginia
    • May respond to demonstrations that occur in or near WMATA properties
    • Often involved in transit-related discussions and negotiations regarding bus and rail service requests for very large demonstrations
  • US Capitol Police
    • The law enforcement agency in charge of protecting the Congress, including members, employees, visitors, and its facilities
    • The chief of police is appointed by Capitol Police Board
    • Has jurisdiction over the “US Capitol Grounds”, which is the roughly 300 acres surrounding the US Capitol Building that is under the control of the Sargent at Arms of the US Senate and the Chief Administrative Officer for the US House of Representatives
    • Coordinates with other law enforcement agencies to ensure Congress has its protection even if it is operating outside of DC
  • US (DHS) Federal Protective Service
    • The law enforcement agency under the Department of Homeland Security tasked with protecting the US Government’s critical infrastructure and services from terrorism and other threats
    • The director is appointed by the US president
    • Has jurisdiction over the buildings, grounds, and property owned or under the control of the federal government, including all of the administrative agencies with facilities in DC
  • US Park Police
    • The law enforcement agency for all federal parkland
    • The chief of police is appointed by the US president
    • Has jurisdiction over all federal parkland and all of DC
    • Present at many demonstrations in DC, sometimes on horseback
  • US Secret Service
    • The law enforcement agency assigned to protect of the leaders and the financial and critical infrastructure of the United States
    • The director is appointed by the US president
    • Coordinates with other law enforcement agencies to ensure the President and other leaders have its protection even if they is operating outside of DC
    • Usually only present at demonstrations in DC near or at the White House
  • US Supreme Court Police
    • The law enforcement agency for US Supreme Court
    • The chief of police is appointed by the US president
    • Has jurisdiction over the US Supreme Court and the surrounding grounds
    • Only present at demonstrations at or near the Supreme Court grounds
  • Private security (at office buildings, retail outlets, embassies, consulates, etc.)
    • The DC Metropolitan Police Department oversees the licensing for security officers and special police officers that operate at local facilities
    • Federal authorities oversee the licensing of security officers and special police officers that operate at federal facilities