Monday, November 26, 2001

U.S. Capitol Police would not need D.C. National Guard troops to help protect the Capitol today if a 1998 congressional recommendation to increase the police force’s staff had been heeded, a police union official said.
Congress authorized increasing the Capitol Police by 214 officers after the July 1998 shooting deaths of two officers at the U.S. Capitol. It also appropriated funds for equipment and overtime pay.
But the new positions were not funded until the current fiscal year, and Capitol Police still face a shortage of 75 officers, said Lt. Lou Cannon, president of the Washington, D.C., Fraternal Order of Police. “The effort needed to secure the funding was never done,” said Lt. Cannon, a member of the U.S. Mint Police.
The Metropolitan Police Department on Nov. 16 swore in 50 D.C. National Guardsmen to assist Capitol Police officers, who have been working overtime since the September 11 terrorist attacks. The troops will patrol the Capitol for 90 days.
U.S. Capitol Police spokesman Lt. Dan Nichols said it is difficult to determine if the National Guard would have been needed if officers had been hired sooner.
“There are too many variables. It depends on the attrition level,” Lt. Nichols said. “This [bringing in the National Guard] is a short-term solution to a long-term problem.”
Congress’ findings in 1998 no longer apply since September 11, and officers have worked 12-hour days, six days a week since the terrorist attacks against the Pentagon and World Trade Center, Lt. Nichols said. Capitol Police officials are assessing manpower needs as a result of the attacks, he added.
“This is an issue we are going to have to resolve over a long period of time,” he said.
In 1998, Congress authorized a Capitol Police force of 1,530 civilian workers and sworn officers, but reduced that figure last year to its current level of 1,481 employees, of which 1,300 are officers.
Even with the 50 Guardsmen, the force is still 25 officers short of its authorized strength, Lt. Cannon said. The job turnover rate has prevented the force from filling all of its authorized positions, Lt. Nichols said.
This is the first time National Guard troops have patrolled the U.S. Capitol since the 1968 riots.
According to D.C. police sources, the mayor’s office was reluctant to use National Guard troops, fearing increased liability, but was persuaded by Metropolitan Police Chief Charles H. Ramsey.
A manpower study after the 1998 shooting deaths of Capitol Police Officers Jacob J. Chestnut and John M. Gibson showed that 700 extra officers were needed on the force. Capitol Police had 1,124 officers at that time.
The manpower study conducted by the Capitol Police Board, which consists of the sergeants-at-arms for the House and Senate said at least two armed officers need to be stationed at each entrance to the Capitol.
The Commission for Federal Law Enforcement recommended that the Capitol Police be merged with Library of Congress and Government Printing Office police forces to provide a larger and better coordinated force, Lt. Nichols said. The three police agencies are controlled by Congress and could be easily merged, he added.
The Library of Congress police force has 145 officers and the Government Printing Office Police Department has 75 officers.
“These conditions and recommendations have existed for a number of years, and the failure [for] direct action is inexcusable,” Lt. Cannon said. “They’ve had one tragedy, and they almost had a second major tragedy on September 11. What level of tragedy or incident is necessary for them to move forward?”

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