Gainer Pushes for Capitol Police Control in Merger
As negotiations over the merger of Hill law enforcement entities continue, Capitol Police Chief Terrance Gainer said he will push for the creation of a unified department that includes the Library of Congress police force.
“Having a single department under the command of the Capitol Police and under our budget control is better for security,” Gainer said Thursday at a Senate Appropriations subcommittee on the legislative branch hearing.
The merger, mandated by the 2003 omnibus spending bill, will combine the 132-member Library security unit with the larger Capitol Police force, which is composed of nearly 1,400 sworn officers and another 227 civilian staff members.
In testimony at an April hearing of the Senate Rules and Administration Committee, Librarian of Congress James Billington said he would like to see security at the institution handled by a separate division created within the Capitol Police and under the direction of the Library. The Librarian also would maintain control over the division’s budget.
Officials for both agencies have met and are working on a plan outlining the merger, which must be completed by Aug. 19.
Former Charlotte-Mecklenburg (N.C.) Police Chief Dennis Mowicki, who has participated in several police department mergers, has been hired to serve as an adviser to the process, Gainer said.
“We’re going to have to figure out who can make the cut and meet our standards, who might need additional training, who might be grandfathered in or who might be pensioned out,” he added.
Currently, Capitol Police officers patrol the area around the Library as part of their primary jurisdiction, and the two forces are similar in both pay scale and mission, protecting Members of Congress and their staff, as well as national treasures and tourists.
But Library officials have asserted the duties of their police force vary from those of Capitol Police officers because the officers are responsible for making sure materials are not removed from the Library.
“The Library of Congress has made a valid observation that their responsibilities are a little different,” legislative branch subcommittee ranking member Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) noted at the hearing. “They have a fiduciary responsibility that comes with the collection.”
However, Gainer noted that Capitol Police do share similar duties within the Capitol buildings.
“There’s a lot of very important and historical items that we are responsible for in the Capitol complex, so in many respects there’s commonality,” he said.
During the hearing, Gainer also discussed the department’s goals for hiring new officers.
The law enforcement agencies expect to expand to 1,569 sworn offices by the end of the fiscal year, and are seeking funds that will allow it to grow to 1,833 officers by the end of fiscal 2004.
Gainer called the increases “the backbone of plans to fully staff all necessary law enforcement areas around the Capitol complex.”
Included in the increase are 135 officers who will be needed to staff the Capitol Visitor Center, which is scheduled to open in late 2005, and 27 officers for the Botanic Garden. Another 119 officers will be added throughout the Capitol complex.
The agency also aims to more than double the number of professional staff from 227 to 573 by the close of fiscal 2004.
That increase accounts for 60 civilians in the new Hazardous Materials Response Team, which will handle chemical, biological or radiological threats to the Hill. Another 143 posts will be used for administrative support.
Durbin inquired whether the Capitol Police have investigated technologies that could help to reduce the number of officers it employs.
In response, Gainer said: “Given the numbers of doors and garages and entrances, that’s where a lot of this labor intensive employment comes in. Even as we get to opening the CVC, there’s no indication at this point that other doors and entrances will be closed.”