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Park Police Chief cancels body cam meeting, cites Ghaisar shooting investigation

Congresswoman Eleanor Holmes Norton and Virginia Rep. Don Beyer asked to talk to U.S. Park Police Chief Robert MacLean about training, body cameras, and dash cameras. (ABC7)

Three months after a police chase that ended with a Virginia man’s death, the public is still in the dark about why U.S. Park Police opened fire on Bijan Ghaisar.

None of the officers who shot Ghaisar were wearing body cameras.

Two Members of Congress want to change that, but the Park Police Chief refused to meet with them.

Bijan Ghaisar’s family is disappointed, but not surprised the chief blew off the meeting on Capitol Hill.

DC Congresswoman Eleanor Holmes Norton and Virginia Rep. Don Beyer asked to talk to U.S. Park Police Chief Robert MacLean about training, body cameras, and dash cameras.

“They agreed to talk about it, and then said they would not come,” Norton said.

Norton and Beyer sent a letter to MacLean demanding another meeting.

The FBI is investigating the November shooting, but Norton and Beyer said they wanted to talk about a proposal to equip federal officers with body and dash cameras.

“Park Police cited anti-lobbying and Hatch Act laws,” Norton said. “You don’t cite those against Members of Congress.”

“It would have been laughable in a different context, citing the fact that they couldn’t use the Hatch Act to meet with Members of Congress,” Beyer said.

MacLean's office later issued a statement saying that the chief could not discuss the investigation and could not take a position on proposed legislation. (See full statement below.)

On November 17, Ghaisar fled the scene of a fender bender on the George Washington Parkway, but was unarmed when he was shot five times.

Video of the shooting was provided by another agency, which assisted during the chase.

Beyer and Norton say they are upset about the lack of transparency.

“We have been trying to give the FBI the benefit of the doubt,” Beyer said, “but the Park Police stuff looks pretty sketchy from the very beginning.”

Ghaisar’s family says the cancelled meeting is further proof of a lack of transparency. They issued the following statement:

Ghaisar Family Statement
February 13, 2018
“What happened to our Bijan should not happen in America. We will not let his death at the hands of the U.S. Park Police be in vain, which is why we are committed to ensuring proper law enforcement equipment, training and policies to prevent something like this from happening to other families.
“We were disappointed, though not surprised, to learn that Park Police abruptly backed out of a meeting today with Representatives Don Beyer and Eleanor Holmes Norton as they seek answers about Bijan’s case and smart reforms for federal law enforcement. From the very beginning, it has been our experience that the Park Police have tried to avoid transparency and accountability about what happened when they killed our son and brother almost three months ago – what they did today was more of the same.
“We are grateful for the efforts and support of Reps. Beyer and Holmes Norton.”

After this story was published, the U.S. Park Police released the following statement about the canceled meeting:

Statement on Scheduled Meeting with Congresswoman Eleanor Holmes Norton and Rep. Don Beyer
WASHINGTON – The U.S. Park Police (USPP) was contacted by Congresswoman Eleanor Holmes Norton’s office last week requesting a meeting with the Congresswoman, Rep. Don Beyer, and USPP Chief of Police Robert D. MacLean to discuss the force’s use of body and dashboard cameras.
The Congressional Representatives later sent the NPS a media advisory that indicated they wished to discuss an ongoing investigation of a November 17, 2017 USPP officer-involved shooting. As we have stated previously, the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), Washington Field Office, is leading that investigation. In order to ensure the integrity of the investigation, the USPP cannot discuss the investigation at this time.
The Congressional offices also stated in the media advisory that they planned to discuss legislation for Federal uniformed law enforcement officers that Congresswoman Norton is drafting related to body cameras and dashboard cameras in police vehicles. While the USPP is prepared to discuss cameras the USPP is not prepared to take a position on legislation.
For these reasons, it became clear that Chief MacLean could not address the issues in the proposed meeting and offered to meet at a later date after the media session. National Park Service officials are prepared to meet with members of Congress to discuss general policy on body and dashboard cameras in the future.
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