Capitol Police Chief Kim C. Dine clarified that his officers are not the "media police," following a March 28 police-press run-in that nearly resulted in the arrest of a journalist.
Dine also apologized for the incident, in which an officer briefly detained BloombergBNA’s Ari Natter and demanded Natter's driver's license and Social Security number, after the reporter allegedly jostled the cop while trying to ask Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Gina McCarthy a question.
In an April 10 meeting with Heather Rothman, chairwoman of the Executive Committee of Periodical Correspondents, and press gallery staff, Dine said he wished the incident had been better handled, according to sources in attendance.
News of Natter's brush with law enforcement raised concerns among congressional reporters that police might interfere with their attempts to interact with the high-profile officials who are escorted around the Capitol by security details. Some questioned whether police “actions could have a chilling effect on future police-media interactions," Rothman said.
Dine assured reporters that Capitol Police don’t care who is asking questions or what they are trying to ask, as long as they are a credentialed member of the press. He said his department's job is to provide security and help move people around the Hill.
“The meeting went well and was very productive," Dine said in an email to CQ Roll Call. Capitol Police fulfills "many roles in our status as a unique police agency and some of the most important things we do is protect the rights of citizens to express themselves and protect the freedom of the press as we go about our duties protecting and serving the legislative process.
"Our folks do this on practically a daily basis almost always with skill, tact and diplomacy," he continued. "As such, we in fact are committed to excellence in our officers’ daily interactions with members, staff, our media partners, and the public. I, too, pledge to continue to work together.”
Dine also reiterated the contents of a February memo on interacting with the media, in which he notified officers that members of the media are permitted in an area closer than the general public that should safely afford a view of the scene, without interfering with law enforcement operations. He also emphasized that reporters need to make sure they have their press credentials on them at all times and visible.
In the wake of what Senate Sergeant-at-Arms Terrance W. Gainer described as a "kerfuffle," Rothman said she felt “pleased and reassured that Capitol Police views this as an isolated situation and that [Dine] wishes it had been handled differently.”
"We opened up a line of communication that wasn’t necessarily there in the past,” she said.