Last week, the U.S. Merit Systems Protection Board (MSPB) ordered the National Park Service to reinstate whistleblower Teresa Chambers as Chief of the U.S. Park Police
, as well as to reimburse her for back pay and legal costs. Her case garnered national attention when she was removed by the Bush administration in 2004 after telling the Washington Post
that "traffic accidents had increased along the Baltimore-Washington Parkway because two, rather than the recommended four, officers were on patrol," as well as that more officers were needed to safeguard the country's national monuments and memorials.
The fifty-three page ruling
by the MSPB is a tremendous victory, and is precedent-setting for other federal employee whistleblowers. From the Washington Post
The case also sends an important message that legal safeguards apply to top officials who expose problems, not just to middle- and low-ranking ones.
However, Chambers' ultimate victory does not eclipse the struggles faced during her seven-year legal battle. Chambers and her husband engaged in an all-out campaign -- often working 18-20 hours a day (see video below) -- to build a case, with the aid of public interest lawyers and a web of public support. The case suggests that success resulted not only from the slivers of protections afforded under the Whistleblower Protection Act, but also from the Chambers’ own determination, hard work, and network of advocates. Yet, many whistleblowers are unable to dedicate such time and money to their cases, and thus, fall through the cracks.