Originally known as the Park Watchmen, they were formed in 1791 by George Washington to protect federal property only in the District of Columbia. The Watchmen were given the same powers and duties as metropolitan Washington police in 1882, and their name changed to the present U.S. Park Police in 1919. Their authority first began to expand outside DC in 1929, and today they are primarily responsible for the Gateway National Recreation Area in New York City and the Golden Gate National Recreation Area in San Francisco, as well as the many designated areas in the Washington area, which includes neighboring counties in Maryland and Virginia.
Park Police must be U.S. citizens over the age of 21, but under 35 when they first apply, with some education past the high school level or the equivalent. Upon completion of training, officers are initially assigned to the Washington area, where the largest contingent of Park Police are located.