- The Washington Times - Wednesday, April 5, 2006

U.S. Capitol Police Chief Terrance W. Gainer yesterday said his officer did the right thing when he stopped Rep. Cynthia A. McKinney after she walked past a secure checkpoint in a House office building last week.

“It’s much to do about nothing,” said Chief Gainer, whose last day on the job is today. “I want to make it really clear: If [officers] are not sure who’s walking in that door, I expect them to challenge that person. And the person who is challenged has no right to strike an officer.”

The chief announced his retirement last month after it was brought to his attention that he had violated a 1967 law against nepotism when he hired his son-in-law as a police officer more than two years ago. Chief Gainer’s son-in-law also resigned from the force.

The nepotism charges surfaced after repeated clashes with congressional Democrats in recent months over the size and direction of the Capitol Police.

Yesterday, Chief Gainer fiercely defended the actions of his officer during what he repeatedly referred to as the “brouhaha” with Mrs. McKinney, Georgia Democrat. The congresswoman, who says she was stopped because she is black, struck the officer in the chest with her cell phone.

“No one should hit a police officer simply because you take umbrage with an officer doing his job,” Chief Gainer said when asked whether Mrs. McKinney should be charged.

Capitol Police on Monday requested an arrest warrant for Mrs. McKinney over the incident. A spokesman for the U.S. Attorney’s Office said yesterday the matter was “still pending.”

No action is expected before the end of the week.

Meanwhile, House Republicans yesterday pressed for a resolution to commend the Capitol Police for their professionalism, and Democratic leaders did not support Mrs. McKinney or her charge of racial profiling in the incident.

“I don’t think any of it justifies hitting a police officer,” said House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi of California. “If it did happen, I don’t think it was justified.”

Rep. Steny H. Hoyer of Maryland, the No. 2 Democrat in the House, said all lawmakers, staffers and visitors in the building have a responsibility to obey the Capitol Police. “I think we all should cooperate fully,” he said.

Rep. Melvin Watt, North Carolina Democrat and chairman of the Congressional Black Caucus, had no comment, a spokesman said.

Chief Gainer yesterday dismissed Mrs. McKinney’s claims, saying that her repeated public statements that the incident was about race were “highly inappropriate.”

Capitol Police officers are responsible for screening 30,000 persons who pass through the doors of the Capitol complex each day, he said.

“We see a lot of people,” the chief said. “To only have a couple of imperfect interactions is a pretty good record.”

Chief Gainer took over the force in June 2002, after more than three years as second-in-command of the Metropolitan Police Department.

In that time, Chief Gainer increased the department’s sworn strength by about 400, to 1,700 officers; upgraded its weaponry and its technology; and improved morale. He will be replaced temporarily by Assistant Chief Christopher McGaffin.

When Chief Gainer announced his retirement last month, Rep. Juanita Millender-McDonald, the ranking member of the House Administration Committee, which has oversight of the Capitol Police, cited his positive record in diversifying the department.

“I applaud the chief’s work in providing a more diverse work force and his commitment to promoting women and minorities, and he would be sorely missed,” said Mrs. Millender-McDonald, California Democrat and a member of the Congressional Black Caucus.

Last Wednesday’s incident began when a Capitol Police officer stopped Mrs. McKinney after she bypassed the metal detectors in the Longworth House Office Building. Her office is in the Cannon House Office Building.

Members are allowed to bypass security, but the officer did not recognize her, and she was not wearing the lapel pin that most members display.

Mrs. McKinney and her attorneys have said the officer inappropriately touched her and that she struck back in self-defense.

• This article is based in part on wire service reports.

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