Chairmen: LOC Cops Get Enough Training

Posted September 10, 2003 at 5:17pm

As Congress considers merging its own police force with that of the Library of Congress, the chairmen of the House and Senate Appropriations subcommittees with jurisdiction over the two agencies questioned the level of training Library officers would be required to complete.

Under an implementation plan submitted in late August by the Capitol Police to the Appropriations committees, the Library’s force would essentially become the fourth division of the Capitol Police Uniformed Services Bureau, which now comprises House, Senate and Capitol divisions. The merger is mandated by the 2003 omnibus spending bill.

Rep. Jack Kingston (R-Ga.), who chairs the Appropriations subcommittee on the legislative branch, asserts that the Library already has significant measures in place to protect its collection.

“To protect books you don’t need that highly trained of an officer,” said Kingston, adding that his views are shared by some Members in the House leadership.

“What is the risk at the Library of Congress?” Kingston asked.

Sen. Ben Nighthorse Campbell (R-Colo.), who chairs his chamber’s subcommittee on the legislative branch, said the two agencies “ought to be one department with the same training,” but suggested that training levels could vary depending on an officer’s job description.

According to a final draft of the merger implementation plan, newly hired officers assigned to the Library division would complete the same 22-week regimen now required of Capitol Police officers, and current Library officers would complete a five-week training course to bring them up to par with the Capitol Police.

While both agencies currently require new recruits to attend eight to 10 weeks of basic police training at the Federal Law Enforcement Training Center in Glynco, Ga., the Capitol Police also mandate an additional 10-week training session at the training center’s satellite campus in Cheltenham, Md. The Library program requires only two additional weeks of instruction.

Kingston, who acknowledged he has not reviewed the report, said he would like to maintain the Library’s current training for its officers.

In a letter addressing the merger plan, Librarian of Congress James Billington voiced support for the training proposal.

Vern Gehris, chairman of the Library of Congress Police Labor Committee, did not return a call seeking comment, but Library officers have said they support the merger because of the additional training opportunities it would provide.

While on duty in late August, one officer lamented what he described as a lack of “additional training you should have after FLETC to keep your skills sharp” that is now provided to Library officers.

Both Kingston and Rep. Jim Moran (D-Va.), the subcommittee’s ranking member, also said Tuesday they would support an expansion of the Capitol Police Board, the department’s governing body, that is being sought by the Librarian.

“They should be represented because [Billington] knows what the security needs are at the Library,” Moran said.

Kingston echoed those sentiments: “The Librarian has to have control over his shop.”

The Police Board is comprised of the House and Senate Sergeants-at-Arms and the Architect of the Capitol, as well as the Capitol Police chief, who serves as an ex-officio member.

Campbell, who also hadn’t read the report, remained neutral on expansion, stating that the decision should be made by the department.

Members in both chambers said they would wait to approve the merger plan until they have reviewed a strategic plan developed by the Capitol Police that outlines the necessary number of civilian staff and sworn officers, as well as how the department will expand training, prevention and response methods.

Currently the law enforcement agency has more than 1,400 sworn officers and 227 civilian staffers, and will gain the Library’s 131 officers in the merger process.

“I think we should see a long-term picture,” Moran said.