Aug. 22, 2014 SIGN IN | REGISTER

Could Sequester Compromise Capital Celebrations Security?

Chris Maddaloni/CQ Roll Call
Capitol Police evacuated the Capitol Visitor Center and parts of the East Front of the Capitol after a suspicious package was found April 19. Security around the area remains high as the Boston Marathon bombings investigation unfolds.

With the Boston Marathon bombings fresh in mind, Del. Eleanor Holmes Norton, D-D.C., wants to make sure the sequester does not interfere with law enforcement efforts to protect against acts of terror during summer events in the nation’s capital.

She especially wants to ensure the realities of the sequester won’t limit police officers’ ability to do their jobs.

“Boston exposed a series of new risks that will require expanded police presence at outdoor events,” Norton said in an April 18 statement. “Because so many of these outdoor events are coming up in D.C., now is the time to address the police presence in light of the sequester.”

In an interview with CQ Roll Call on April 19, Norton said she had meetings scheduled the week before the coming recess with various stakeholders in the federal police community. The timing of the events in Boston, she said, makes the meetings all the more pressing: Summertime in D.C. is one filled with concerts and celebrations, on Capitol grounds and on the National Mall in particular.

“What we’re seeing is an entirely new iteration of terrorism, and I have been in Congress for several of these iterations,” Norton said. “But this one raises new problems for me because I represent a district at a time when outdoor events are beginning, and we are having furloughs that are across-the-board and include police and security officials  . . .  I realized I have an obligation to make sure there is police presence of the kind that is needed.”

Declining to say at this point with whom she was scheduled to speak, Norton added that her meetings were, in part, for fact-finding purposes. She said she wants to learn from law enforcement officials not only whether the sequester might make it difficult to oversee huge crowds in light of recent events, but also whether they feel that putting additional officers on the ground is necessary.

One thing Norton does have confidence in, though, is in police agencies’ established protocol and “game plans” for dealing with emergencies like the Boston bombings.

Meanwhile, Capitol Police officials are always looking to see how they can streamline operations, said spokeswoman Lt. Jessica Baboulis, and the Boston incident could very well inform new practices.

“It’s hard to say what, if anything, will change,” Baboulis said, “but one of the things we are known for is hosting large events and encouraging family to attend different events, and securing these events.

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