- The Washington Times - Tuesday, November 27, 2001

An impasse between Congress and U.S. Capitol Police officials last year prevented the hiring of new officers to bolster security at the Capitol, a police union attorney said.
Congressional leaders held up new funding last year because they were concerned that Capitol Police officials had been using the money to fill old vacancies, not make new hires, said Gary Hankins, who represents the U.S. Capitol Police Fraternal Order of Police Labor Committee.
"It [funding] was not withdrawn. It was an impasse on how that money was being spent," said Mr. Hankins, who negotiated with Congress for Capitol Police officers during the impasse.
"[Members of Congress] were making sure the money was available and that it was not being used for any other purpose. They were saying, 'Make sure that money was being used for filling these new positions, and it can't be used for overtime.'"
Mr. Hankins' comments were in response to a report yesterday in The Washington Times that Congress withheld funding for new officers, causing a shortage of about 75 Capitol Police officers.
U.S. Mint Police Lt. Lou Cannon, president of the Washington, D.C., Fraternal Order of Police, said the 50 D.C. National Guardsmen who have been deputized to help patrol the Capitol for 90 days would not have been needed if the new officers had been hired.
Metropolitan police deputized the Guardsmen Nov. 16 to relieve Capitol Police officers, who have been working 12-hour days, six days a week in the wake of the September 11 terrorist attacks.
The Times reported that Congress authorized hiring 214 new officers in the aftermath of the 1998 shooting deaths of Capitol Police Officers Jacob J. Chestnutt and John M. Gibson by a lone gunman in the Capitol. At the time of the shooting, there were 1,124 Capitol Police officers; although the force is now authorized to have 1,300 officers, it has about 75 vacancies.
Mr. Hankins said the impasse resulted in two police academy classes of 24 to 32 officers not being filled. He also attributed the officer shortage to attrition, rather than a gap in hiring new officers.
"They are having continuing problems. Their attrition is running between 20 and 30 people a month. You would need to hire 300 officers to remain stable," Mr. Hankins said. "Even if they had enough money, they could not have filled the vacancies anyway."
U.S. Capitol Police Lt. Dan Nichols, a spokesman, has said that attrition was a problem and that it is difficult to determine what effect the impasse has had on the department's manpower.
Mr. Hankins said pre-impasse negotiations last year determined that the Capitol Police did not have the staffing to recruit enough people or provide training for new hires. As a result of that finding, a new training academy is being built in Southern Maryland for Capitol Police officers, he said.
"There have been some positive results that were a result of the impasse. They've increased the size of their academy staff to better address recruiting and retaining officers," said Mr. Hankins.


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