Capitol Police officers are sweating a new management decision to ban officers assigned to the Capitol from wearing shorts.
With record high temperatures already being recorded in Washington, D.C., officers say the restriction imposes on their comfort and even on their safety.
"When the weather starts getting too bad, if the management doesn't work with the officers, they start getting sick from the heat," Capitol Police union Chairman Jim Konczos said. "The argument management gives us is they give these guys good breaks. But believe me, you go and stand up there on the Upper West Terrace ... I don't care how long you go in the air conditioning, you're basically melting when you go inside."
Capitol Police spokeswoman Sgt. Kimberly Schneider would not say why the decision was put in place, stating in an email, "Uniforms and equipment are designed and assigned based upon the operational needs of the Department."
But union representatives said they were told that Inspector Donald Roullier, who oversees the department's Capitol Division, made the decision based on appearances — particularly the fact that shorts-clad officers do not look good carrying large automatic rifles.
Only officers working at the Capitol are affected, while those on patrol, bicycles or guarding office buildings and the Library of Congress can still don shorts.
"They want it to be more professional- looking attire," Konczos said. "What they're saying is because it's the Capitol Division, you have to look better than everyone else, but you look across the street and you'll see the guys on the House Division and Senate Division in shorts."
He said management is violating its own written policy, which allows officers to wear shorts. Officers have had that option since then-Chief Terrance Gainer, now the Senate Sergeant-at-Arms and chairman of the Capitol Police Board, instituted the policy in 2002.
Pvt. 1st Class Tim Barker, the union's executive chief shop steward, said he met with Deputy Chief Fredinal Rogers to discuss the issue and was given no indication that management plans to reverse the decision.
"As long as the officers are doing their job, it shouldn't matter what uniform they're in," Barker said. "We want the officers to be able to wear the shorts. An officer who is comfortable is a lot more alert."
In the meantime, he said he will focus on getting officers plenty of water and sufficient breaks.