Members of Congress have been raising questions about morale among Capitol Police officers in recent weeks, but the strained relationship between rank-and-file officers and the department's top brass appears to have hit a new low.
Contract negotiations between the Capitol Police union and department management have hit a wall. Union leaders laid out three major sources of tension in a Feb. 23 letter to Chief Kim C. Dine obtained by CQ Roll Call. It stated the officers concurred with a Jan. 7 statement by Dine that, "contract negotiations are officially over." The department wants to change the disciplinary process by creating a matrix that breaks down different ranges of penalties, according to Capitol Police Labor Committee Chairman Jim Konczos. The union supports the matrix as a way to impose new checks and balances on the disciplinary system, but it wants to negotiate how the matrix will look.
Konczos said department leadership offered the union a preview of the disciplinary matrix during a January meeting, "but nothing materialized ... to follow this through." Without it, they don't know what kind of behavior constitutes what punishment. For instance, would an officer arrested for drinking and driving while on assignment be suspended from duty or terminated?
The department declined to comment on negotiations, citing agreed-upon ground rules that mandate confidentiality about the bargaining process.
Konczos told CQ Roll Call the department has "completely crapped all over" the ground rules, and violated good faith bargaining agreements.
Dine faced a question about officer morale during a March 12 hearing of the Senate Legislative Branch Appropriations Subcommittee from Shelley Moore Capito, R-W.Va., the panel's chairwoman and lone freshman cardinal . She wondered whether the national discussion about law enforcement in the wake of police-involved violence in Ferguson, Mo., affected Capitol Police, and asked, "How do you perceive the morale of the Capitol Police right now?”
Dine said the push-and-pull dynamic between law enforcement and the general public highlights the uniqueness of Capitol Police, and he said his department functions as "kind of a combination of an urban department" that also does investigations and intelligence work. He said pushing that information out to the entire agency, which monitors threats not only on the Hill, but also in member's district offices, can be a challenge.
“Part of that points then to my mission of making sure that our agency, from top to bottom, is cohesive. That we have a cohesive management team that understands the mission that we face, and those nuances [and] the uniqueness of who we are and what we do. And I think that relates often to the morale," Dine said.
"It’s imperative that we understand that we’re one police organization. That is more important than any individual, that we understand what our roles and responsibilities are," he continued. "The more and better people understand that — which is my role as chief of police, [to] make sure the management team and all of our leaders and managers and officials within the agency are a cohesive team — and in that way we can best address morale.”
Approached by CQ Roll Call after the hearing, Dine said he had to get to a meeting.
The chief was grilled about low morale during a Feb. 25 hearing with House appropriators. Dine said he hired a labor specialist whose “sole concern” is to track labor issues and revisit them on a weekly basis.
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