Cops Vow to End Waiting at Senate Entrances

Posted March 12, 2008 at 6:34pm

Expect those long lines outside Senate office buildings to shorten over the next few weeks — and not just because of the upcoming Congressional recess.

Capitol Police officials are preparing to enact a number of changes designed to decrease the time staff and visitors have to wait to get through the screening process at Senate building entrances.

Perhaps most notably, the department will increase staff levels at all entrances when the Senate is in session this spring, said Adam Sharp, a spokesman for Sen. Mary Landrieu. The Louisiana Democrat chairs the Appropriations Subcommittee on the Legislative Branch.

With the appropriations cycle in full swing — and those cherry blossoms blooming — the spring is often the busiest time of the year on Capitol Hill, Sharp noted.

The department also will increase operating hours at the Dirksen Building’s auditorium door, Sharp said. Currently, the door is open only from 7 to 10 a.m.

And Capitol Police also plan to debut a pedestrian traffic-monitoring program over the next few weeks that is designed to direct people to various entrances if certain doors become too crowded.

“We’re going to see how those work … and then possibly look at other approaches,” Sharp said.

Landrieu met with Capitol Police Chief Phillip Morse on Tuesday after she noticed the unusually long lines and asked that he look into solutions to decrease those waits, Sharp said.

Morse responded by Wednesday afternoon, Sharp added. The Senator is pleased with the quick response, Sharp said, noting that while the waits are certainly a convenience issue, they also pose unique security concerns.

“If someone is standing that close to the building, that close to staff, you want to get them through the magnetometers as swiftly as you can,” Sharp said.

In an e-mail, Capitol Police spokeswoman Sgt. Kimberly Schneider confirmed that the department is increasing staff levels to “accommodate the influx of visitors that occurs each Spring.”

“It’s all another part of our responsibility to facilitate the work of Congress,” she said.