Police Unions Critical of Library’s New Escort Policy

Posted September 3, 2004 at 5:54pm

A decision by the Capitol Police Department to erect traffic checkpoints across the Capitol campus in early August has spurred Library of Congress Police to action in an unexpected location: the cafeteria.

In recent weeks, the number of Capitol Police officers utilizing Library restroom and cafeteria facilities has jumped, primarily due to additional officers now stationed at vehicle stops near the LOC complex.

That activity has prompted debate over a Library regulation that requires all outside law enforcement officers, including the Capitol Police, to be escorted while in the LOC’s three Capitol Hill facilities.

In an early August memorandum issued to Library Police lieutenants, LOC Police Capt. Melvin Dogan called for renewed enforcement of the measure, stating: “Please reiterate to Officials/Officers that US Capitol Police should not be allowed to walk through halls unescorted.

“USCP Officers have been observed in LC Cafeteria in recent days in uniform and unescorted seated having lunch. This must be dealt with immediately.”

But LOC Police Labor Committee officials assert that enforcing the regulation would burden a department that is already understaffed, numbering around 100 officers, roughly two-thirds of the number it is authorized to employ.

“We’re wasting manpower by escorting them around the Library,” said LOC Police Labor Committee Chairman Mark Timberlake, who later added the policy creates “a very unfriendly environment.”

The Capitol Police Labor Committee is equally critical of the regulation, asserting that it is “insulting” to the department’s officers.

“We in the law enforcement profession are never at a greater risk of terrorism and crime than we are now. It is the goal of the incident command structure to share information and act in a coordinated effort in response to any emergency, and that requires cooperation, respect and over all trust,” Officer Ron Potter, chairman of the labor committee, wrote in an e-mail to Dogan.

“LOC officers are welcome to walk in our buildings without escorts. I would just expect the same type of professionalism from the LOC,” Potter added.

Capitol Police spokesman Officer Michael Lauer explained that on-duty officers are screened, but are not required to have escorts while in the Capitol or House and Senate office buildings.

“We verify who they are, and that they really do work for who they say they do,” Lauer said. “Once that’s verified, and we’re satisfied, then they can proceed if they’re in uniform and on duty.”

An LOC spokeswoman confirmed Friday that both law enforcement agencies are now working to address the issue, although no formal agreement has yet been reached.

Lauer noted: “It’s something that we’re looking at.”