By Matthew Daly
WASHINGTON — Interior Secretary Ken Salazar is reinstating a former U.S. Park Police chief who was fired in 2004 after complaining publicly that her department was understaffed and underfunded.
Teresa Chambers will return to her former position on Jan. 31, Salazar said Friday. A federal board ordered last week that Chambers be reinstated, saying she is entitled to back pay, interest and other benefits. She had sued and claimed protection under the Whistleblower Protection Act.
Chambers was suspended in December 2003 and fired the following July. The Interior Department said she was fired for insubordination and failing to follow the chain of command. She said the police agency lacked enough officers to protect national park land, including the Washington Monument and other sites on the National Mall. The federal Merit Systems Protection Board ruled in favor of Chambers on Jan. 11.
Chambers, 53, is now police chief in suburban Riverdale Park, Md. She said in a statement that she was honored to return as Park Police chief.
Every day, park police officers, along with National Park Service rangers, "walk through the pages of history as they protect and secure our national monuments and parks and those who visit them," Chambers said.
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Current Park Police Chief Sal Lauro will serve as a senior adviser, Salazar said.