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Security Concerns Boost Capitol Police Budget

(Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

After terrorist attacks rocked Paris and San Bernardino, Calif., the police force charged with protecting the U.S. Capitol has been granted more money to beef up security and add officers to its ranks.The call for security enhancements  prompted negotiators to increase funding for the Capitol Police in the $1.1 trillion year-end spending package. A GOP leadership aide confirmed congressional leaders requested additional funds for the department. The fiscal 2016 Legislative Branch Appropriations bill released Wednesday included $375 million for the Capitol Police, a $27 million increase from 2015. The figure is from $6 million to $9 million above the initial increases granted in the original House and Senate bills, respectively, that were approved by the Appropriations Committees.  

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The Capitol Police Board, a three-member body that oversees the department, plans to request that the additional funds be used to hire 48 more officers. The Capitol Police cannot spend $4 million of the additional funds until the board presents a plan to appropriators.  "The Board will evaluate the language contained in the final bill and work with U.S. Capitol Police to develop a plan to implement the enhancements to security procedures for the Capitol complex," Senate Sergeant-at-Arms Frank J. Larkin, chairman of the Capitol Police Board, said in a Thursday statement. "We will work to present a plan in approximately 60 days, which will include a request for 48 additional officers." A leader of one of the Legislative Branch Appropriations subcommittees said lawmakers understood the department needs the resources necessary to secure the campus.  

“I think we all understand there’s a need for priority of safety and wanted to make sure they had the resources they needed, to make sure the campus is kept a great environment for all of our visitors and folks who work here on the Hill,” Rep. Tom Graves, R-Ga., who chairs the House subcommittee, said Wednesday when asked about the funding increase.  

The department is currently authorized for 1,775 sworn officers and 370 civilians. According to a recent CQ Roll Call survey , 9 out of 10 congressional staffers feel safe at the Capitol. But the recent terrorist attacks raised concern among lawmakers, which led to a review of additional resources the department might need to enhance security.  

"The USCP, the Capitol Police Board, the Appropriations Committee, and leadership all agreed, in light of recent world and domestic events, that additional sworn officers were needed," said a senior Democratic aide.  

A spokeswoman for the Capitol Police declined to give details on a plan for the additional resources. But outgoing Capitol Police Chief Kim C. Dine thanked Congress for its support.  

"Working with the Capitol Police Board, leadership and our oversight committees, we continue to get incredible support from the Congress to protect the Congressional Community and the many visitors who come to the Capitol every day," Dine said in a Wednesday statement. "We greatly appreciate their support in implementing various security measures to ensure a safe and open campus."  

Jim Konczos, chairman of the USCP Labor Committee, said in a statement to Roll Call that he hoped the funds would be used widely.  

"While we don't know what the funding is earmarked for, we would hope that the department uses these funds to address any security shortcomings, and focus on real training possibilities for the officers," Konczos said.