Sacked U.S Park Police Head Teresa Chambers Bounces Back

Whistle Blower Gets Her Job
WATCH Whistle Blower Gets Her Job Back

Eight years ago Teresa Chambers made headlines for being the first woman to head the U.S Park Police in its 213-year history. A year later the headlines read a bit differently -- Chambers had been fired.

"I mean, there's nothing more humiliating. You could have marched me down the hall naked and it would not have been as humiliating as taking my badge and my gun," she told ABC News' Claire Shipman.

On Dec. 2, 2003, Chambers told reporters that Congress forced her to scale back patrols so that officers could guard the national monuments around Washington in the aftermath of the 2001 terrorist attacks.

This meant that some police work was being overlooked.

The Washington Post cited her saying that residents in neighborhood areas were complaining of homeless people and drug dealers populating the smaller parks, and traffic accidents on the Baltimore-Washington Parkway had increased.

Chambers also revealed that the Park Police had a budget shortfall of $12 million -- money she said was necessary to fulfill the department's mission. She said she feared visitor safety could be affected as a result.

Just three days after she made the remarks, Park Service officials suspended Chambers. Soon after, the deputy director of the Park Service proposed both her removal and pressing charges against her for releasing sensitive information, insubordination and breaking the chain of command.

"I asked, 'What do you believe that I've done wrong?' and the answers that I got were, 'Well, we're looking into that', and of course I pressed forward, so I asked what it means that they're looking into it, and finally, they reluctantly said, 'Well it's in the Washington Post,'" Chambers told ABC News.

"I asked, 'What's in the Washington Post?' They said 'Well, the violation of a federal statute.' I asked, 'What federal statute?' And finally, under advice of his counsel, my boss quit telling me anything, and I was sent home with no allegation of anything," she said.

Chambers was stripped of her gun and badge, walked out by armed agents in the National Park Service, and literally stood on the sidewalk, where she tried to figure out how to get home.

Chambers was officially terminated in July 2004; fired, as she saw it, for telling the truth -- she was determined to get her job back.

Chambers and her husband spent the next seven years with that goal in mind. They'd work 18 to 20 hours a day, alongside the watchdog group representing her -- Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility (PEER) -- conducting research for her case.

Last month a federal appeals court ordered that Chambers be reinstated. They found that the evidence against Chambers was not strong at the time action was taken against her, and that her actions were protected under federal whistle-blower laws.

On Jan. 31, Chambers was sworn in, again, as chief of the U.S. Park Police.

"I was losing faith in a system that I believed in, in a country that I love," she said. "I bleed red, white, and blue and to be sitting here today, now, in the one police chief's position that can both serve the country and serve the profession is such an honor and I've got my pride back in everything I believed in growing up and still do."

It took all of the couple's savings, but their efforts finally paid off when the federal appeals board also ruled that Chambers receive full back pay, totaling $2 million, and have her legal expenses covered.

Today, she sets about her duties, again, watching budget battles closely. And she says she's been given absolutely no warning or gag orders about talking to the public.