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Veto of Bill Relating to Law Enforcement in the District of Columbia.

July 06, 1945

[Released July 9, 1945. Dated July 6, 1945]

To the House of Representatives:

The enrolled bill H.R. 2856, "To provide for better enforcement of law within the District of Columbia, and for other purposes," is returned herewith without my approval.

The language of section 1 of the bill, although obscure and indefinite, is apparently intended to transfer jurisdiction over felonies committed within the park areas in the District of Columbia from the United States Park Police to the Metropolitan Police of the District of Columbia in situations where detective services are required. I am convinced that the effect of such legislation would be to impair rather than to improve law enforcement in these park areas. In the event that felonies are committed on park lands without the perpetrators being immediately apprehended, the provisions of section 1 would seem to place any members of the United States Park Police, functioning in connection with the solution of such felonies, under the control of the detective force of the Metropolitan Police. During this time the United States officers, regardless of rank, would be subject to the orders of the Detective Bureau and precinct detectives of the Metropolitan Police force. This would require the members of the United States Park Police force to serve two masters whose authority over them would be uncertainly divided, and would necessarily have a demoralizing effect on that organization.

The Federal Bureau of Investigation of the Department of Justice and the Metropolitan Police are now authorized to participate with the United States Park Police in solving felony cases wherever their services are necessary. Approval of the bill would unsettle the practical working arrangements already set up for this purpose, without adding to the means available for the detection and apprehension of offenders.

An additional objection to the provisions of section 1 is that they would remove full authority over the United States Park Police force from the Secretary of the Interior, who is charged by law with the exclusive charge and control of the National Capital Park System.

Section 2 of the bill declares that no appropriations from the revenues of the District of Columbia shall be used to pay the salaries or for equipment of the United States Park Police, and section 3 would make this requirement effective from July 1, 1945. Although the reports of the committees which considered the bill state that the practical effect of section 2 is merely to require that members of the Park Police force who perform truly Federal services and are under the control of Federal authorities be paid out of the funds of the Federal Government, nevertheless the fact of the matter is that the appropriation for this purpose contained in the District of Columbia Appropriation Act for the fiscal year beginning July 1, 1945, has not been made from Federal funds. Because of the terms of section 3, approval of the bill might well be construed as a repeal of so much of this appropriation as would otherwise be available for the salaries and equipment of the personnel involved.

Both the Department of the Interior Appropriation Act for the fiscal year beginning July 1, 1945, and the Second Deficiency Appropriation Act have been passed by the Congress in a form which makes no provisions for the 70 members of the United States Park Police force--a majority of that organization--whose salaries and equipment are, under the terms of the District of Columbia Appropriation Act, payable from revenues of the District of Columbia rather than from Federal funds. Hence the effect of a repeal of the appropriation for this purpose contained in that Act would be to deprive the United States Park Police of the necessary means for the pay of its personnel, and to jeopardize the performance of its essential protective functions.

For these reasons, I feel that it is my duty to withhold my approval from H.R. 2856.

HARRY S. TRUMAN

[APP Note: In the Public Papers of the Presidents series, this document is dated July 9, 1945, the date it was released. The American Presidency Project dates this document as July 6, 1945, the date the bill was vetoed.]

Harry S. Truman, Veto of Bill Relating to Law Enforcement in the District of Columbia. Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project https://www.presidency.ucsb.edu/node/232033

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