House Votes to Merge Police Forces
After four years and several drafts, legislation approving the merger between the Capitol Police and Library of Congress police passed the House on Wednesday.
Introduced by House Administration Chairman Robert Brady (D-Pa.) and co-sponsored by ranking member Vernon Ehlers (R-Mich.) the measure allows all Library of Congress police officers to join the Capitol Police in some capacity.
“This is important,” Brady said on the House floor. “Under this plan, nobody — nobody — will lose a job, or suffer a reduction in pay, rank, accrued leave or other benefits.”
The bill passed under suspension of the rules. Similar legislation has been introduced in the Senate as part of the legislative branch appropriations bill. That measure, introduced by Subcommittee Chairwoman Mary Landrieu (D-La.), has yet to pass the chamber.
Under the House version, the roughly 100 LOC officers almost immediately will begin transferring over to the Capitol Police once the merger conditions are approved. The entire merger should be complete by Sept. 30, 2009, and LOC officers who do not meet certain age, tenure and physical requirements would become civilian employees rather than full-time officers.
It is a long time coming for the merger, which originally was approved as part of the fiscal 2003 omnibus appropriations bill. Several merger versions were discussed over the years but none managed to move very far.
Brady gave it another shot, listing it as one of the top priorities for the House Administration panel this year. He introduced the bill in September after holding a hearing discussing plans with Capitol Police, Library police union officials and LOC administrators.
Union officials were not entirely happy with the first draft of the legislation, saying some officers would be negatively effected by the merger.
Michael Hutchins, head of the Library police union, said at the time that some older officers were concerned they would be forced to take civilian jobs with the Capitol Police despite having years of law enforcement experience.
Other officers were concerned they would lose retirement benefits should the merger go through, said Hutchins, who could not be reached for comment Wednesday.
Those worries led Brady to host a series meetings with union officials and other merger players, according to spokesman Kyle Anderson. Eventually, Brady changed the bill to include a provision that prohibited LOC officers from having to undergo the one-year probation period usually given to new recruits.
The merger went relatively smoothly from there, Anderson said, because of Brady’s “desire to make sure as many people were happy with the resolution as possible.”
“He really wanted to do everything to build consensus,” Anderson added.
Under the merger conditions, the Capitol Police will be given jurisdiction over all Library buildings located in the District of Columbia. The Librarian of Congress still will be responsible for designing security for the Library’s vast holdings and can issue regulations to protect those collections.
A Capitol Police spokeswoman declined to comment on the measure Wednesday, saying the department does not comment on pending legislation. A Library of Congress spokesman did not return a call seeking comment.