- The Washington Times - Sunday, May 25, 2003

U.S. Capitol Police Chief Terrance W. Gainer has proposed that Congress expand the department’s jurisdiction to include arrest powers in the District, Northern Virginia and much of Maryland.

Capitol Police have such powers in about 270 square blocks of the District surrounding the U.S. Capitol. The area is bounded by H Street to the north, Potomac Avenue to the south, Seventh Street to the east and Third Street to the west.

Chief Gainer’s proposal expands those powers throughout the city and into such areas as Maryland’s Anne Arundel, Montgomery, Prince George’s, Howard and Frederick counties, and into Virginia’s Arlington, Alexandria, Fairfax, Loudoun and Prince William counties.

Officers would not patrol the areas but would have the authority to act if they witness a crime, said Chief Gainer, who took charge of the U.S. Capitol Police in June 2002.

A Capitol Police officer now has no more authority than the typical person to stop a crime.

“My desire is not to go out and police the District of Columbia,” Chief Gainer said. “But if an inadvertent crime falls into my lap while I’m in another part of the city, I ought to be able to take police action.”

He said officers don’t even have arrest powers traveling to and from the department’s training facility in Cheltenham.

According to Gainer’s proposal, officers who make an arrest would give the cases to local authorities to investigate, then act as witnesses in the criminal case.

U.S. Rep. James P. Moran, Virginia Democrat, said Chief Gainer is overreaching in his request.

“We have the [U.S.] Park Police,” he said. “We have the local police in every jurisdiction. We have the state police and about a dozen other law enforcement agencies. Why do we need the Capitol Police in addition?”

They openly disagreed about the plan last week during a House subcommittee hearing.

Chief Gainer said police chiefs from the surrounding jurisdictions have pledged their unanimous support for the plan and were surprised to learn that Capitol Police officers do not have such authority.

The department is under the control of the legislative branch through a police board that includes Chief Gainer and the sergeants at arms of the House and Senate.

Mr. Moran thinks the department’s primary duty is to guard the Capitol, not enforce laws in the District, Maryland and Virginia. He also thinks law enforcement is the responsibility of the executive branch.

Chief Gainer, who is also a lawyer, said Mr. Moran raised some “fair” questions but thinks that expanding the department’s jurisdiction would be legal. It was expanded in 1992 from the U.S. Capitol grounds to the Capitol Hill neighborhood.

The bill that authorized the 1992 expansion was co-sponsored by D.C. Delegate Eleanor Holmes Norton, a Democrat, who said at the time that residents of Capitol Hill had asked for greater police presence. At that time, the Metropolitan Police Department had about 4,500 officers. Today the department has about 3,600 officers.

The Capitol Police, which had about 1,200 officers and civilian staff in 1992, has 1,667 officers and staff today. It is larger than the police forces of Denver and Seattle.

In his fiscal year 2004 budget request, Chief Gainer is asking for $275 million to pay for 1,700 officers and 572 civilian staffers.

The fiscal 2003 budget was $218 million.

Mr. Moran said the number of officers Chief Gainer wants would create the impression of a “siege mentality” at the Capitol, where “lords have their own personal army of knights.”

“I think he figures, under the guise of security, we’re going to give him anything he wants,” Mr. Moran said.

Chief Gainer needs authorization from Congress to expand the Capitol Police jurisdiction.

He said the authorization is tied to the department’s budget and is likely to face hearings in the next 30 days.

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