LOC Police Seek Compliance Investigation

Posted October 20, 2004 at 6:35pm

Library of Congress Police officers have requested an Office of Compliance health and safety inspection of their own department after the agency’s radio services were briefly shut down last week.

According to a copy of the complaint provided to Roll Call, the Library’s Police Communications Center was shut down on Oct. 13 at 6:30 p.m. for approximately 50 minutes. Officers familiar with the situation said the closure was the result of nonemergency repairs approved by police management.

“This caused radio communications to be inadequate or no radio contact,” the complaint states. During the repair period, officers could not communicate with the communications center itself — known as the “base station” — but officers could use units as two-way radios to communicate directly with each other.

(According to a source familiar with the process, an officer needing to broadcast a message normally contacts the base station, and a technician relays the message to other officers. Messages transmitted from the base station have a stronger radio signal, reducing unwanted noise and providing better sound quality.)

The complaint, filed Oct. 15, also asserts that the radio shutdown created an “unsafe environment” during hours when both employees and visitors were present in the Library.

“We’re disappointed that such action was taken during public hours,” said Officer Mark Timberlake, who serves as chairman of the LOC Police Labor Committee.

Although the radio shutdown did not have a significant impact — officers reported only one urgent situation during the 50-minute period, involving a medical emergency — Timberlake said he hopes the complaint will prevent department officials from making similar decisions in the future.

“The hope is the police management will consider the repercussions [when] they issue orders that may affect safety and security concerns for officers and the staff and public,” Timberlake said, and later added: “It is an ongoing thing. It’s a lot of simple mistakes that if thought through could have been handled properly.”

Library officials could not comment on the complaint. “The Library has no comment because we have not yet received the complaint from the Office of Compliance,” an LOC spokeswoman said.

The complaint was filed under the Congressional Accountability Act, which provides Congressional employees protection under 11 federal labor laws covering civil rights, fair employment and discrimination.