- The Washington Times - Tuesday, May 27, 2003

The chairman of the House Committee on House Administration said yesterday he fully supports a proposal to expand the arrest powers of the U.S. Capitol Police to include the District, Northern Virginia and parts of Maryland.

U.S. Rep. Bob Ney, Ohio Republican, said although the proposal was in the preliminary stages, he would be more than happy to write legislation authorizing the expansion, and he predicted wide bipartisan support.

“If you’ve got a Capitol Police officer and they’re on the beat or in the car and a crime occurs, they should be able to respond to it,” Mr. Ney said.

Capitol Police have arrest 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.

Capitol Police Chief Terrance W. Gainer has proposed expanding those powers throughout the city and into Anne Arundel, Montgomery, Prince George’s, Howard and Frederick counties in Maryland, and into Arlington, Alexandria, Fairfax, Loudoun and Prince William counties in Virginia.

Officers would not patrol the areas but would have the authority to act if they witnessed a crime, said Chief Gainer, who left the Metropolitan Police Department’s No. 2 position in June to take charge of the U.S. Capitol Police. A Capitol Police officer now has no more authority to stop a crime outside his jurisdiction than a regular person.

Asked about concerns that Capitol Police would use arrests to justify future budget increases, Mr. Ney said legislators make “absolutely zero judgment on how many people [Capitol Police] arrest.”

“I’m not worried at all about this,” Mr. Ney said. “I don’t see anything that is scary or unusual here.”

U.S. Rep. Jack Kingston, Georgia Republican and chairman of the House subcommittee on legislative appropriations, which funds the U.S. Capitol Police, said he was taking a “very, very cautious” approach to the proposal.

“I believe the case hasn’t really been made for it,” said Mr. Kingston.

In his fiscal 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.

D.C. Delegate Eleanor Holmes Norton, a Democrat who co-authored 1992 legislation expanding Capitol Police jurisdiction from the Capitol campus to a 270-square-block area around the Capitol, called the proposal a good idea.

“I think what Chief Gainer is doing is trying to take a 19th-century police force and bring it into the 21st century,” said Mrs. Norton, the District’s nonvoting representative. “It’s the right time to rethink everything we’ve been doing in the past.”

Lou Cannon, president of the Fraternal Order of Police Lodge No. 1, which represents police officers from 43 local and federal agencies that operate in the District, yesterday sent a letter to Chief Gainer supporting the proposal.

“The training doesn’t change just because you cross the police lines,” said Mr. Cannon, an inspector with the U.S. Mint Police. “They’re capable law-enforcement officers and should be treated as such.”

He said extended arrest jurisdictions should be examined for other police forces.

“Police officers don’t hesitate to do our jobs when we cross state lines,” Mr. Cannon said. “All we’re asking for is the authority to do the necessary and proper job.”

Some police officials said privately that they were skeptical of the proposal. They said they recognize jurisdictional limits and that a police officer who witnesses a crime outside his county would not have authority to act.

Art Spitzer, legal director for the local chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union, said he had several concerns about expanded jurisdiction for the Capitol Police.

“I’m not at all sure Congress can do that without the consent of Maryland and Virginia,” he said, adding that as a policy matter the proposal also should be vetted through the D.C. Council.

Mr. Spitzer noted that the Capitol Police ultimately are answerable to Congress through a police board that includes Chief Gainer, the architect of the Capitol and the sergeants-at-arms of the House and Senate.

“Ordinarily, policing is an executive-branch power,” Mr. Spitzer said. “I would think there would be a constitutional problem there.”

If Capitol Police obtain arrest powers in other jurisdictions, he said, he would expect to see a civilian complaint review board put into place to monitor the way officers interact with citizens.


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