Police Agency Merger Is Official Today

The Capitol Police department officially merges with the Library of Congress police department today, creating a unified security force for the Congressional campus after years of heated negotiations and several failed plans.

The merger brings the Library’s facilities under the Capitol Police’s oversight, an effort that first began in 2003 and stumbled along until Congress passed a structured plan in December 2007. The process was often delayed by complaints from Library police officers, who were worried about losing their badges and retirement plans.

Misgivings still remain, and some Library officers have a lawsuit pending in court that claims the merger is unconstitutional. But on Tuesday, both parties seemed relieved that the process was complete.

“Overall, it was inevitable, and it’s a good thing,— said Mike Hutchins, the former chairman of the Library police union who has criticized the merger in the past. “Because of the way the world is now, we definitely needed one force.—

Seventy-nine of the Library’s officers will join the Capitol Police, said Library spokesman Matt Raymond. Fifty-eight will be sworn in as officers, and 21 will join the department as civilian employees. Others retired before the merger.

Capitol Police spokeswoman Sgt. Kimberly Schneider said that while sworn officers are required to be transferred by today, the department has until Oct. 11 to bring over civilian employees. But all will be “ceremonially sworn in— during a ceremony today.

Raymond said the transition should be “transparent— for the Library because Capitol Police officers have worked at the agency since 2004. Former Library officers also will likely stay posted to the Library, he said, though the Capitol Police now has complete control over officers’ assignments.

House Administration Chairman Robert Brady (D-Pa.), who helped broker negotiations between the Library and the Capitol Police, said in a statement that he was “very pleased— that the merger was complete after years of proposals. A Republican committee spokeswoman agreed that it was a “smooth transition.—

“The merger will make the coordination of their efforts easier and will allow for a consistent operational standard,— Brady said. “A lot of hard work and compromise went into this effort, and the union leadership and officials from both groups deserve a lot of credit for this accomplishment.—

By putting the Library under the Capitol Police’s umbrella, Members have dissolved a police force from a pre-9/11 era of law enforcement. While the Capitol Police require extensive training and impose a strict retirement age, for example, the Library had no mandatory retirement age and usually hired officers who had been trained elsewhere.

The makeup of the two departments was also wildly different. The Capitol Police is a young, diverse force of about 1,800 officers. The Library, meanwhile, employed about 100 officers, most of whom were older than 40 and were African-American.

Library officers thus worried that their age would relegate them to civilian positions within the Capitol Police, robbing them of the benefits of retiring as a sworn officer (such as carrying a gun). Some also felt officials were discriminating against them because of their race; the pending lawsuit addresses some of those concerns, and the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia is expected to move forward with the case now that the merger is complete.

Indeed, Hutchins said that some officers were displeased with their placement. For example, one 51-year-old officer will go into the department as a civilian because he won’t have enough years under his belt to be able to retire by the mandatory retirement age for sworn officers. Capitol Police officials thus put him in a civilian position, where he will be able to work for the department until retirement.

Still, Hutchins said he was proud that so many Library officers — who had to prove themselves during several weeks of training — were able to transfer and become Capitol Police officers.

“We’re pleased and we’re going to make it work for us,— said Hutchins, who will be sworn in as a Capitol Police officer today. But “the manner in which it was done left a lot to be desired.—

Topics: