- The Washington Times - Friday, June 7, 2002

Attrition and recruiting are huge issues, and the police union squawks everytime a reporter lends a willing ear. Also, questions abound regarding politicians' security detail. Does this sound like the District's Metropolitan Police Department (MPD)? Think again. This is the U.S. Capitol Police, an elite force of well-trained, well-paid officers who don't balk (at least not yet) and who, Monday, welcomed Terrance W. Gainer, second in command at the District's Metropolitan Police Department, as their new top cop.

Chief Gainer, 54, came to the city in 1998 with his eyes on such a high-profile agency, and it seems the media-hungry chief just might be a perfect fit for the force, whose profile and budget have risen dramatically since September 11. Part of the reason is that similar issues were facing MPD when Chief Gainer came to Washington. However, with MPD, attrition and recruiting were huge problems; at Capitol Police they are not. At MPD, Chief Gainer spent money on raises, uniforms, capital improvements and new equipment. Coincidentally, murder rates dropped, too but management had little to do with that. (Violent crime remains rampant and the homicide-closure rate remains low.) In other words, there is the appearance that the MPD of today is far better than the MPD of 1998 thanks to Chief Gainer.

Indeed, the Capitol Police Board is placing a lot of stock in Chief Gainer, who is familiar with attrition rates and union contracts and union leaders, including Gary Hankins, the former union leader with MPD, now holds the same union job with Capitol Police. However, while MPD officers fled the force because of crime and corruption, scores of Capitol Police officers left to become federal air marshals, which speaks volumes about their excellent training. Scaredy-cats on the Hill also hope the chief's familiarity with electronic surveillance and street closings, which are essentially turning this capital into a closed society, will make them feel safer.

To be sure, the Capitol Police force, whose officers must be sent to congressmen's home districts when they don't feel safe, is one of the costliest in the city. The Metropolitan Police Department, for example, is authorized to have 3,600 sworn officers, a budget of $320 million and must patrol the entire city. Capitol Police by comparison is authorized to have about 1,600 personnel and a budget of $220 million two-thirds the budget of D.C. police yet Capitol Police essentially only patrol and monitor Capitol Hill.

The chief, however, faces two significant challenges. One is to never make more rounds on the talk-show circuit than camera-hound and Senate Majority Leader Tom Daschle. The other is to steer clear of the chicken littles on Capitol Hill who, at the least whiff of danger, would have him construct a moat around the nation's elected representatives.

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