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Pope Visit Comes During Tumultuous Time for Capitol Police

Critics of the chief called for an immediate change in leadership. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

Capitol Police is just one of the scores of agencies coordinating a massive security strategy for Pope Francis' visit to U.S. soil, but its approximately 1,700 sworn officers and 300 civilian staff will be key to keeping the pontiff and the public safe during the pope's Thursday speech to a joint meeting of Congress.  

Members say they are confident in security officials, but the department has been plagued by personnel issues and infighting while planning for the papal visit. On the day federal and local District of Columbia officials convened  to address concerns about security and transit during the pontiff's visit, likening it to an inauguration, Capitol Police union officials ramped up their efforts to undermine outgoing Chief Kim C. Dine, who plans to retire in January.  

Roads Around Capitol to Close for Pope's Visit

(Chris Maddaloni/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

The U.S. Capitol Police has announced a series of street closures and security notices in anticipation of Pope Francis' visit to the nation's capital next week.  

According to a Monday news release, closures include all streets within a three-block radius of the Capitol and will begin at midnight on Sept. 24 and end at noon, once Pope Francis has the left Capitol grounds after addressing a joint meeting of Congress. The closure area is bound by D Street to the north; Washington Avenue and D Street to the south; Third Street to the west; and Second Street to the east. Screen shot 2015-09-14 at 5 Capitol Police emphasized there will be no public viewing areas to watch the pope's address on the Capitol grounds. Those gathering on the West Front, in the chamber or watching a telecast in a House and Senate office building will be required to show their tickets and submit to a security screening to enter the grounds. A number of items are prohibited from the grounds that day, including selfie sticks, umbrellas, strollers, bikes, thermoses, coolers, drones, weapons and explosives.  

Capitol Police Board Aims to Replace Chief Quickly

Dine's tenure was defined by big-ticket events and inter-departmental strife. (Photo By Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)

Two former Secret Service agents and an architect walk into a board room. They're charged with finding a replacement, and soon, for outgoing Capitol Police Chief Kim C. Dine.  

They have a lot of work to do, with Dine retiring in January but coordinating security for Pope Francis' visit to the United States , particularly the pontiff's Sept. 24 address to a joint meeting of Congress and for the hundreds of thousands, perhaps more, expected on the West Front and National Mall for the papal visit.  

Capitol Police Chief to Retire in January

Dine will retire in January. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

U.S. Capitol Police Chief Kim C. Dine plans to step down in January, capping a contentious three years as the Hill’s top cop.  

Dine’s retirement plans were announced to department employees Monday in an internal email. The move follows a 90-day period of intense scrutiny from the Capitol Police Board. In April, the chief submitted a resignation letter to Senate Sergeant-at-Arms Frank J. Larkin, House Sergeant-at-Arms Paul D. Irving and Architect of the Capitol Stephen T. Ayers. Many officers thought the chief was headed for the exits. Instead, Assistant Chief Daniel B. Malloy  abruptly retired, and a veteran deputy chief stepped into the No. 2 spot. It is unclear if Assistant Chief Matt Verderosa, who has had a 30-year career in federal law enforcement, will take over as acting chief.  

Capitol Evaluates Own Cybersecurity After OPM Hack

(Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

As news broke that data breaches at the Office of Personnel Management affected more than 22 million people , Senate staffers received a notice from the Senate Sergeant-at-Arms about the chamber's own cybersecurity.  

"As a result of recent data breaches in other areas of government, a reassessment of our cybersecurity posture was implemented," read the Thursday email obtained by CQ Roll Call. The message then described updates to logging into the Senate's Web VPN service, or workers' remote access to their Senate accounts. The missive reflected that campus administrators are looking inward at the Capitol's cybersecurity systems following the massive data breach at the OPM, which affected congressional staffers and some members of Congress,  since staffer and member data is transferred to the OPM when they leave service. The breach led to intense criticism of the agency, culminating in OPM Director Katherine Archuleta's resignation on Friday.  

Lawmakers Disturbed by Suspension of Suspected Capitol Police Whistleblower

Blunt wonders whether Capitol Police are being forthcoming. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

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.  

Capitol Police Sergeant Suspended in Gun-in-Bathroom Probe

This photo has caused a firestorm within the agency. (Photo provided to CQ Roll Call)

Capitol Police have suspended a sergeant in the Capitol division, allegedly in retribution for a leak related to Roll Call's May 1 report of three incidents  in which officers left loaded guns in problematic places, such as the bathroom.  

The sergeant was one of two senior officials ordered on June 22 to speak with internal affairs investigators in the Office of Professional Responsibility, according to sources within the department. Those sources did not want to speak on the record about disciplinary matters for fear of retribution. Only one returned to work, the sources said, while the sergeant has not been back on duty since. After the lost guns made waves around Capitol Hill, law enforcement officials announced the department's Office of Professional Responsibility and its independent inspector general would review the incidents and report all findings and recommendations to the Capitol Police Board. Police subsequently launched a hunt for the source behind the photo of one unattended Glock service weapon left in a Capitol Visitor Center bathroom.  

Vatican Releases Schedule for Pope Francis U.S. Visit

Boehner invited Pope Francis to address Congress. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

The Vatican on Tuesday released Pope Francis' schedule for his September visit to the United States, where he will spend five days and address a joint meeting of Congress on Sept. 24.  

“It is with humility and deep gratitude that we will welcome His Holiness Pope Francis to the U.S. Capitol in September for a Joint Meeting of Congress," Speaker John A. Boehner, R-Ohio, said in a statement. "His visit to the U.S. Capitol is unprecedented, and it is with open ears and hearts that we will welcome his address to the Congress." In March 2014, Boehner invited the pontiff to address Congress, and the Vatican officially accepted the invitation in February 2015. House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., also welcomed his visit, noting in a Tuesday statement, "Ever since his inauguration in 2013, Pope Francis has renewed the faith of Catholics worldwide and inspired a new generation of people, regardless of religious affiliation, to be instruments of God’s peace."  

Demands for Resignations, More Answers Follow OPM Breach (Video)

Meadows called for Archuleta's resignation. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

Lawmakers continue to look for answers about the recent Office of Personnel Management data breaches affecting millions of federal workers, with some House members calling for the director's resignation.  

"It is outrageous that after the biggest data breach in our nation’s history, OPM has yet to fire a single individual," Rep. Mark Meadows, R-N.C., said in a statement Wednesday. "It is time that Director [Katherine] Archuleta step down and be replaced with someone prepared to immediately address cybersecurity vulnerabilities at the agency.”  

OPM Breach Includes Congressional Staffers (Video)

Connolly, left, said one of his staffers was affected by the OPM breach. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

As government officials answered questions about the recent Office of Personnel Management data breach, former and current congressional staffers processed the notices they are receiving from the agency that they, too, were affected by the breach.  

Rep. Gerald E. Connolly, D-Va., told CQ Roll Call Tuesday that his press secretary, George Burke, who has never worked for the executive branch, received a notice from the OPM saying his personal identifiable information may have been compromised. Connolly said he spoke with someone in the office of the House Chief Administrative Officer, and it appeared that congressional staffers who had a break in their service, activating their retirement status, were affected by the breach. “What it seems to be is: If you worked up here for 'x' number of years and you terminate your employment and you leave government service, they give a final report, which may turn out not to be final, about your retirement status to OPM," Connolly said after attending the classified briefing on the breach for members of the House.