Police Look to Expand Into Two More Buildings

Posted December 12, 2003 at 2:43pm

Acknowledging that a new headquarters building will not be completed in the near future, Capitol Police officials are now focusing on a variety of short-term options to gain more work space for officers, both on and off the Capitol campus. In a Dec. 8 memo, Capitol Police Chief Terrance Gainer outlined one step the department is already taking: The agency has reached a “conceptual agreement” that includes leasing a building south of Independence Avenue to supplement the current D Street Northeast headquarters. “There is just not sufficient space in any of the properties owned by Congress to handle our girth,” Gainer wrote in the memo. “Even with space contemplated in the [Capitol Visitor Center], things will be tight to insufficient.” The department has sought a new headquarters for some time. In recent years, the Capitol Police Board has approved two sites in the city’s Southeast quadrant — including the former Washington Star building — but House and Senate lawmakers have failed to agree on the selections. In the meantime, police officials have begun considering “hundreds” of options to find additional space outside their own headquarters and the Capitol campus, according to a department spokeswoman. The department’s plans appear to be moving forward: The building mentioned by Gainer is one of two that the House approved leasing when it passed the fiscal 2004 omnibus spending bill last Monday. Language included in the legislation would allow the Architect of the Capitol to lease space for the police in a pair of buildings in the 400 block of South Capitol Street.

In a recent interview, Gainer confirmed the space will likely be used for administrative offices or locker-room facilities for officers.

According to the memo, the leased buildings would become home to the department’s administrative offices and Patrol and Mobile Response Division, as well as provide “support space” for its House and Capitol divisions.

Additionally, the South Capitol Street offices would house locker-room facilities and “a professional type fitness facility,” the memo states.

In conjunction with the shift, the department’s Senate Division would expand its operations in the headquarters building, and some units now housed in Postal Square on Massachusetts Avenue Northwest would also move to the D Street facility.

Gainer states in the memo that seasonal and emergency equipment will be relocated to storage facilities in the Government Printing Office’s headquarters on North Capitol Street.

“We’ve outgrown our headquarters building. … Because we’ve added so many officers in the past 10 years, we’ve outgrown all of our spaces,” said Capitol Police spokeswoman Jessica Gissubel. The department employs more than 1,500 sworn officers and civilian staff members. “Right now, the focus is what can we do now?”

It is unclear whether the law enforcement agency would maintain its current locker-room facilities in the Capitol. A spokeswoman for the Architect’s office said that House and Senate leadership would determine the space.

Gainer also noted that the department’s move could lead to changes in its roll call procedures, the brief meetings held at the beginning of each shift to review assignments and distribute information to officers.

“We are exploring several possibilities to mitigate inconvenience and improve communication,” Gainer wrote. “You probably already know that many large police agencies as well as military units do not have formal roll calls. We are exploring ‘roll calls without walls.’”

Officer Mike DeCarlo, head of the Capitol Police Labor Committee, also noted the plan could lead to the creation of a shuttle bus system to transport officers from an off-campus locker-room facility to the Capitol grounds.

“Obviously, you like to have your stuff where you’re at, but there’s not a lot of say in the matter,” DeCarlo said. “The Capitol doesn’t have a lot of room, and if Congress needs more room we’re going to have to give it up.”