Smithsonian Police

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Smithsonian Institution Office of Protection Services
Smithsonian Institution Office of Protection Services.jpg
Smithsonian Institution Office of Protection Services patch
Common nameSmithsonian Security Guards
Jurisdictional structure
Operations jurisdiction United States
Constituting instrument
General nature


The Smithsonian Institution Office of Protection Services is the guard force of the Smithsonian Institution.

Security guard person employed to protect property or people

A security guard is a person employed by a government or private party to protect the employing party’s assets from a variety of hazards by enforcing preventative measures. Security guards do this by maintaining a high-visibility presence to deter illegal and inappropriate actions, looking for signs of crime or other hazards, taking action to minimize damage, and reporting any incidents to their clients and emergency services, as appropriate.

Smithsonian Institution Group of museums and research centers administered by the United States government

The Smithsonian Institution, also known simply as the Smithsonian, is a group of museums and research centers administered by the Government of the United States. It was founded on August 10, 1846, "for the increase and diffusion of knowledge". The institution is named after its founding donor, British scientist James Smithson. It was originally organized as the "United States National Museum", but that name ceased to exist as an administrative entity in 1967.


It is a federal guard force consisting of 850 officers with very limited special police authority tasked with protecting visitors, staff, property, and grounds of the federally owned and managed Smithsonian Institution museums and research centers in Washington, D.C., New York City, at the 2,800 acre Smithsonian Environmental Research Center in Maryland as well as oversight of the security operations at the Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute in Panama.

Special police usually describes a police force or unit within a police force whose duties and responsibilities are significantly different from other forces in the same country or from other police in the same force, although there is no consistent international definition. A special constable, in most cases, is not a member of a special police force (SPF); in countries in the Commonwealth of Nations and often elsewhere, a special constable is a voluntary or part-time member of a national or local police force or a person involved in law enforcement who is not a police officer but has some of the powers of a police officer.

Federal government of the United States National government of the United States

The federal government of the United States is the national government of the United States, a federal republic in North America, composed of 50 states, a federal district, five major self-governing territories and several island possessions. The federal government is composed of three distinct branches: legislative, executive and judicial, whose powers are vested by the U.S. Constitution in the Congress, the president and the federal courts, respectively. The powers and duties of these branches are further defined by acts of Congress, including the creation of executive departments and courts inferior to the Supreme Court.

Museum institution that holds artifacts and other objects of scientific, artistic, cultural, historical, or other importance

A museum is an institution that cares for (conserves) a collection of artifacts and other objects of artistic, cultural, historical, or scientific importance. Many public museums make these items available for public viewing through exhibits that may be permanent or temporary. The largest museums are located in major cities throughout the world, while thousands of local museums exist in smaller cities, towns and rural areas. Museums have varying aims, ranging from serving researchers and specialists to serving the general public. The goal of serving researchers is increasingly shifting to serving the general public.


According to a 1978 report by the Comptroller General of the United States:

Comptroller General of the United States Director of the Government Accountability Office

The Comptroller General of the United States is the director of the Government Accountability Office, a legislative branch agency established by Congress in 1921 to ensure the fiscal and managerial accountability of the federal government. The Budget and Accounting Act of 1921 "created an establishment of the Government to be known as the General Accounting Office, which shall be independent of the executive departments and under the control and direction of the Comptroller General of the United States". The act also provided that the "Comptroller General shall investigate, at the seat of government or elsewhere, all matters relating to the receipt, disbursement, and application of public funds, and shall make to the President when requested by him, and to Congress... recommendations looking to greater economy or efficiency in public expenditures." The Comptroller General is appointed for fifteen years by the President of the United States with the advice and consent of the Senate per 31 U.S.C. § 703. Also per 31 U.S.C. § 703 when the office of Comptroller General is to become vacant the current Comptroller General must appoint an executive or employee of the GAO to serve as the Acting Comptroller General until such time as a new Comptroller General is appointed by the President and confirmed by the Senate.

In 1882 the Office of Public Buildings and Grounds was authorized to employ four watchmen to protect the buildings and grounds of the Smithsonian. The powers and duties of the watchmen were the same as those of the District's Metropolitan Police. Pursuant to 40 U.S.C. 193n, the Smithsonian was authorized to employ special policemen to police the buildings and grounds of the Institution. The special police were authorized to concurrently enforce, with the United States Park Police, the laws and regulations of the National Capital Parks.

Law Enforcement Authority

According to the U.S Code (Title 40, Chapter 63, §6306), Smithsonian guards and National Zoo police officers are designated as special police. Subsection B outlines the powers of these special officers stating that they:

Title 40 of the United States Code outlines the role of Public Buildings, Properties, and Public Works in the United States Code.

(1) may, within the specified buildings and grounds, enforce, and make arrests for violations of, sections 6302 and 6303 of this title, any regulation prescribed under section 6304 of this title, federal or state law, or any regulation prescribed under federal or state law; and

(2) may enforce concurrently with the United States Park Police the laws and regulations applicable to the National Capital Parks, and may make arrests for violations of sections 6302 and 6303 of this title, within the several areas located within the exterior boundaries of the face of the curb lines of the squares within which the specified buildings and grounds are located." [1]

United States Park Police

The United States Park Police (USPP) is one of the oldest uniformed federal law enforcement agencies in the United States. It functions as a full-service law enforcement agency with responsibilities and jurisdiction in those National Park Service areas primarily located in the Washington, D.C., San Francisco, and New York City areas and certain other government lands. The United States Park Police is one of the few full-service police departments in the federal government that possess both state and federal authority. In addition to performing the normal crime prevention, investigation, and apprehension functions of an urban police force, the Park Police are responsible for policing many of the famous monuments in the United States.

As a uniformed force in accordance with subsection C, employees designated as special police for the Smithsonian "may be provided, without charge, with uniforms and other equipment as may be necessary for the proper performance of their duties, including badges, revolvers, and ammunition." [1]

Uniform similar clothing worn by a group of people

A uniform is a type of clothing worn by members of an organization while participating in that organization's activity. Modern uniforms are most often worn by armed forces and paramilitary organizations such as police, emergency services, security guards, in some workplaces and schools and by inmates in prisons. In some countries, some other officials also wear uniforms in their duties; such is the case of the Commissioned Corps of the United States Public Health Service or the French prefects. For some organizations, such as police, it may be illegal for non members to wear the uniform.

Revolver handgun that has a cylinder containing multiple chambers and at least one barrel

A revolver is a repeating handgun that has a revolving cylinder containing multiple chambers and at least one barrel for firing. The revolver allows the user to fire multiple rounds without reloading after every shot, unlike older single-shot firearms. After a round is fired the hammer is cocked and the next chamber in the cylinder is aligned with the barrel by the shooter either manually pulling the hammer back or by rearward movement of the trigger.

Ammunition General term for a wide range of weapon items such as bombs, missiles, mines and projectiles

Ammunition is the material fired, scattered, dropped or detonated from any weapon. Ammunition is both expendable weapons and the component parts of other weapons that create the effect on a target. Nearly all mechanical weapons require some form of ammunition to operate.

The National Zoological Park Police being as a Federal Law Enforcement Agency that represents one of the five original full service police forces in the Washington District of Columbia share full police powers within the District of Columbia, in addition has a Congressional mandate in the form of a cooperative agreement with the Metropolitan Police Department of the District of Columbia to assist with law enforcement and crime prevention in a directed patrol areas in the Second, Third and Fourth Police Service areas around the National Zoological Park. [2]

The Smithsonian Institution Office of Protection protects 19 Smithsonian sites. Smithsonian Castle Doorway.jpg
The Smithsonian Institution Office of Protection protects 19 Smithsonian sites.


There are several position levels within the Office of Protection Services:

National Zoological Park Police patch United States National Zoological Park Police.jpg
National Zoological Park Police patch

Law Enforcement Union membership

Smithsonian Museum officers in New York state are members of the Fraternal Order of Police Lodge #38 while officers in the District of Columbia belong to the American Federation of Government Employees (AFGE) Local 2463. The Fraternal Order of Police is a national labor union of law enforcement officers and agents.

See also

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A Special Agent, in the United States, is usually a criminal investigator or detective for a federal or state government, who primarily serves in investigatory positions. Additionally, many federal and state "Special Agents" operate in "criminal intelligence" based roles as well. Within the US federal law enforcement system, dozens of federal agencies employ federal law enforcement officers, each with different criteria pertaining to the use of the titles Special Agent and Agent.

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  1. 1 2 "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 2010-07-10. Retrieved 2010-07-13.CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)
  3. "Zoo Police, Security Director Spar Over Safety Needs", NBC 4, Kimberly Suiters/ASHA BEH, Apr. 28, 2009