As a matter of policy, members of Congress usually refrain from commenting on personnel issues related to the force of 1,775 officers sworn to protect them. But when it comes to fallout for bodyguards who protect top GOP leaders leaving their guns in publicly accessible bathrooms , some lawmakers are criticizing Capitol Police's top brass.
"We need to do everything we can to protect whistleblowers," said House Oversight and Government Reform Jason Chaffetz, R-Utah., reacting to CQ Roll Call's report that Capitol Police have suspended a sergeant in the Capitol division, allegedly in retribution for a suspected leak. "All we want is for truth to surface and there should be no repercussions for somebody coming and informing Congress about what really happened — especially if they think there was a problem," Chaffetz said.
In one case, a young child visiting the Capitol with his parents found a loaded service weapon in the bathroom of the Speaker's Suite after it was lost by a member of the security detail for John A. Boehner , according to a source familiar with the incident.
Rep. Rich Nugent, R-Fla., said it looked like "retribution ... instead of worrying about what the underlying cause was. ... It's kind of like when you have a parent get upset because their child did something wrong and they want to blame the teacher, and they don't want to take responsibility for the actions of the child," Nugent said in a Speaker's Lobby interview. "And this is the wrong example to set."
During a May 20 House Administration Committee hearing , Nugent pressed Chief Kim C. Dine on why the agents who allegedly left guns in bathrooms on Jan. 29 and March 24 had not been removed from the protective details of Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., or Boehner. Nugent, a former sheriff, believes the officers should have immediately been removed from those sensitive positions. He said other members have approached him wondering why those officers still have their jobs.
House Administration Committee staffers are staying mum on whether the panel will convene another hearing to probe Capitol Police on security issues. Chairwoman Candice S. Miller, R-Mich., and ranking member Robert A. Brady, D-Pa., did not comment.
"I want to develop a good working relationship with the chief and I think it's frustrating that the discipline seems from [CQ Roll Call] reporting to be doled out to those who were not involved in the initial situation of leaving a firearm in the bathroom," said Rep. Rodney Davis, R-Ill., who sits on the panel. "I think that sometimes, that's where the oversight capabilities of our committee may need to come in and remind those who are in charge of doling out discipline what their priorities should be."
"I'm frustrated because it's not too difficult to manage people when you do it in a fair and effective way and it seems to me, from the reports, that that's clearly not happening at the Capitol Police," Davis said, adding he hopes that "changes, and changes very quickly."
No plans have emerged for a hearing in the Senate, though Rules and Administration Chairman Roy Blunt, R-Mo., expressed concern Wednesday about a lack of communication regarding the sergeant's suspension.
"I don't know anything about this dismissal, so maybe they're not as forthcoming as I think they should be," said Blunt, who this Congress earned the gavel on the panel with jurisdiction over the department.
Those oversight responsibilities are something Senate Armed Services Chairman John McCain , R-Ariz., one of the chamber's 20 military veterans, emphasized in the wake of the incident . McCain confronted Capitol law enforcement over an "inexcusable" security snafu involving former Secretary of State Henry Kissinger earlier this year, and said the report of lost guns harmed the reputation and esteem of Capitol Police.
"We need to look into that," McCain said in response to news of the discipline.
A spokeswoman for Sen. Shelley Moore Capito, R-W.Va., said the chairwoman of the Legislative Branch Appropriations Subcommittee, which controls the department's budget, is in regular communication with Capitol Police "and is confident that they are handling these issues according to the Department’s policies and procedures,” in response to questions. Sen. Brian Schatz, D-Hawaii, the ranking member of the Appropriations panel, declined to comment.
Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz, D-Fla., a longtime Legislative Branch appropriator who has expressed concern about officer morale, also declined to comment.
Attempts to find out more about the personnel issues from department officials, the House Sergeant-at-Arms and the Senate Sergeant-at-Arms were unsuccessful.