Congress, Police Look at Enhanced Capitol Security Costs
In the wake of the terrorist attacks in Paris, Capitol Police have stepped up security around the Capitol, even as the department struggles with strained resources. On Nov. 16, the Capitol Police Board, which oversees the department, announced there would be an “increased presence and visibility” around the campus after the Nov. 13 attacks in the French capital. A police spokeswoman, lawmakers and aides briefed on the enhancements declined to comment on specific measures or costs, citing security concerns, but they were confident the department can cover the additional expenditures.
“While there is currently no known threat to the Capitol Complex, enhanced patrols throughout the Capitol Campus may be observed, conducted out of an abundance of caution,” Capt. Kimberly Schneider, the department’s spokeswoman, said in a Nov. 19 statement to CQ Roll Call.
“The USCP works closely with the Capitol Police Board and utilizes the funds provided by the Congress to maintain robust security,” she added. “Some of our layers of security are visible to the public while others are not, and our security plans are flexible enough to allow us to modify and make operational adjustments as necessary.”
As CQ Roll Call has previously reported , the department recently faced an estimated $5 million shortfall, and unplanned events can further strain the department’s budget. The Capitol Police brass has not asked Congress for more funds to cover the recent security enhancements. According to an Appropriations Committee aide, the recent security measures “are being absorbed within the current USCP budget.”
Top police leaders have met with lawmakers charged with oversight of the department and its budget since the attacks. Rep. Tom Graves, R-Ga., who chairs the House Appropriations Legislative Branch Subcommittee, said he has been in contact with Chief Kim C. Dine, and he met with Dine and House Sergeant-at-Arms Paul D. Irving on Nov. 18.
“[Dine] assured me that his officers operate on high alert at all times and feel they have the resources, flexibility and presence to respond as threats warrant,” Graves said in a statement to CQ Roll Call.
A spokeswoman for Sen. Shelley Moore Capito, R-W.Va., Graves’ Senate counterpart, also said Capito is confident the Capitol Police have planned their resources for enhanced security situations.
The question of finances also came up in a meeting with House Administration Chairwoman Candice S. Miller, R-Mich., on Nov. 17. She told CQ Roll Call she had a “long, extensive briefing” with Dine and Irving about the enhancements.
“We did touch on all of that,” Miller said, when asked about how Capitol Police would pay for the new security protocol. “I think they’re managing it all very well. And obviously we’re going to resource as we need to, to secure the campus.”
“Right now they’re doing OK, but we’ll see,” she later added. “If they need it, we’re going to get it for them.”
Jim Konczos, chairman of the Capitol Police Labor Committee’s executive board, declined to comment on the security enhancements or any potential overtime costs.
According to documents obtained by CQ Roll Call, the union filed two grievances with the department last week. The Labor Committee is in the process of challenging what it argues are training deficiencies at the department, and has raised concern about officers exposed to the elements in new outdoor posts.
In a response to an inquiry about the grievances, Schneider said in a Nov. 20 statement that the department is completing a “brand new, state of the art firearms range.” Schneider also said all officers have completed “specialized active shooter training.”
As the department works to respond to the latest security threats, lawmakers will be debating increases to its nearly $348 million budget. While both chambers’ legislative branch appropriations bills have remained flat, they both included increases in funds for the Capitol Police.
The House bill granted a $21 million increase, while the Senate bill included an increase of $18.5 million for the department of 1,775 sworn officers and 370 civilians.
“We are as satisfied as one could be that they’re beefing up security appropriately in the environment in which they’re operating,” the Senate Legislative Branch Subcommittee’s ranking member, Brian Schatz, D-Hawaii, said on Nov. 18. “And that’s certainly the top of mind as we conference on the appropriations bill.”
The Capitol Police department is just one of more than 30 federal law enforcement agencies in D.C. Since the Paris attacks, local agencies such as the Metropolitan Police Department and the Metro Transit Police have said they have also enhanced security, and are communicating with federal partners regarding potential threats.
MPD Chief Cathy Lanier appeared on CBS’ “60 Minutes” Sunday night to discuss how police in the nation’s capital have trained for active shooter situations. She said it is unlikely citizens will be involved in such situations, but they should be prepared to respond.
“I’m not worried about an overreaction. I’m more worried about a numbness to what is potentially a reality,” Lanier said. She later explained, “Just ignoring it and not preparing yourself. That’s not an option anymore.”
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