For Capitol Police, Change Keeps Coming
For Capitol Police, it’s been an unsettling and rough few weeks characterized by speculation about their top leaders, a suicide on the West Front, a gyrocopter landing on the Capitol lawn and members of Congress looking to trim the force’s budget.
It started earlier this month, with news that Capitol Police Chief Kim C. Dine was headed for the exits when the resignation letter he submitted to the Hill’s top law enforcement officials surfaced.
Many rank-and-file officers expected Dine — who was sworn in on Dec. 17, 2012, after a 37-year career that began with D.C.’s Metropolitan Police Department — would turn in his badge after frank discussions with the Capitol Police Board about leadership and communication. “Everybody resolved he was gone,” said one official, speaking about personnel issues on the condition of anonymity.
Dine has had a contentious relationship with union leadership and the rank and file, with negotiations between the department brass and union over a new contract at a standstill and sniping over a car chase on the night of the State of the Union address.
But it was Assistant Chief Daniel B. Malloy who abruptly capped his 30-year career with the department last week, with a retirement announcement that came as a pleasant surprise to many in the rank and file who have questioned top leadership. Malloy held a routine staff meeting on April 13 with no indication he was leaving, according to a source in attendance. But that same afternoon, Dine began circulating news of his departure among the department’s top brass.
Then Dine quickly moved to fill Malloy’s position. “Please join me in congratulating Deputy Chief Matthew R. Verderosa on his promotion to Assistant Chief of Police and Chief of Operations effective May 1, 2015,” Dine announced in an April 15 memo. Verderosa’s elevation was met, at best, with a mixed response.
Approaching his 30th year of federal law enforcement service, Verdersosa started his career in 1985 with the Supreme Court police, quickly departing the small agency for Capitol Police. He worked as a beat cop in the uniformed and patrol divisions, and as a detective within the department’s Protective Services Bureau before he was promoted to sergeant in 1992.
Verderosa’s varied experience also includes conducting criminal and administrative investigations in the Internal Affairs Division, plus serving in a series of high-level administrative roles, overseeing the Training Services Bureau and the offices of Human Resources and Administration.
Since July 2013, Verderosa has commanded the department’s Disciplinary Review Task Force on behalf of the Capitol Police’s Executive Team — a role in which he has ruffled some feathers among the rank and file and union leadership.
Capitol Police Labor Committee President Jim Konczos acknowledged Tuesday some past concerns about discrepancies in how disciplinary actions are handed out. Asked for comment on Verderosa’s promotion, Knoczos said he honestly wasn’t sure “what would be best for the department” at this point.
The tumult may not be over. Verderosa’s promotion leaves the department with only three deputy chiefs and at least two vacancies.
In a brief message issued Monday evening the Hill’s top law enforcement officials — Senate Sergeant-at-Arms Frank J. Larkin, House Sergeant-at-Arms Paul D. Irving and Architect of the Capitol Stephen T. Ayers — signaled they are willing to work with Dine and Verderosa for the time being.
Larkin, chairman of the Capitol Police Board, offered a cryptic response when asked whether there are ongoing questions about Dine’s leadership.
“The Capitol Police Board continues to support the U.S. Capitol Police leadership team in their efforts to shape the capabilities and preparedness of the department in this dynamic threat environment to ensure the safety and security of the Congress and the Capitol campus,” Larkin said in a statement to CQ Roll Call.
The Capitol Police Board may be focused on reining in the department’s massive overtime costs, a large portion of its $348 million budget. During a March 12 Senate Appropriations Subcommittee hearing, Larkin said it was incumbent on the Capitol Police Board to provide effective oversight of the issue. He said Deputy Senate Sergeant-at-Arms James W. Morhard, a former chief of staff for the Senate Appropriations Committee, “has been invaluable in the examination of … the police budget and the overtime factor.”
An internal memo from the deputy chief of the Uniformed Services Bureau, obtained by CQ Roll Call, details new overtime control measures put in place to help stretch the department’s budget to the end of fiscal 2015, including suspending all training, with the exception of handgun and long-gun training. Commanders have been ordered to shorten breaks and inform the department if they see any other ways of trimming overtime.
Following the dangerous April 15 stunt that ended with a gyrocopter landing on the West Front, some lawmakers still have lingering concerns about certain operations within the department, and a perceived lack of communication between cops and Congress. Sen. Brian Schatz, D-Hawaii, the top Democrat on the Legislative Branch Appropriations Subcommittee, called the incident “jarring,” and said he would receive more information during a Thursday briefing from Capitol Police officials.
Like other members, Schatz is concerned there was no campus-wide security alert during the incident. “Even after that, [Capitol Police] didn’t even think to reach out. We had to initiate the conversation,” he said.
Meanwhile, Republican leaders in Congress announced their support of a plan Tuesday to upgrade safety and security protocols for the Capitol’s annual Memorial Day and Independence Day concerts, events that require a massive police presence.
Speaker John A. Boehner of Ohio and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky have backed the Capitol Police Board’s recommendations to limit access to the Capitol building to members of Congress, invited guests, and authorized staff — a change that may make the events easier to manage.
“The safety and security of our guests remains our paramount concern, and these changes will allow us to continue honoring these holidays in a manner consistent with the dignity and history of the Capitol,” they said in a joint statement.