Metal Detectors in House Garages Questioned
A decision to install metal detectors in staff garages for House office buildings drew criticism Wednesday from one Democratic House member, who said the process was executed in a “shoddy and haphazard manner.”
Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz, D-Fla., grilled House Sergeant-at-Arms Paul D. Irving at an Appropriations subcommittee hearing before she was cut off by the chairman.
Wasserman Schultz, the panel’s top Democrat, said the metal detectors were put up without explanation or justification to appropriators and that the agency moved money around during various fiscal years to fund the project.
“Who directed you to initiate this project in this way?” Wasserman Schultz asked. “Who directed you to initiate this project outside of regular order?”
Irving said he took responsibility for the initiative, and that it was a decision made by the three-member Capitol Police Board, which included consultation with staff of the House Committee on Administration, which oversees Capitol Police and with House leadership staff.
“Was this brought to you?” Wasserman Schultz asked again before Chairman Tom Graves, R-Ga., said Irving had answered the question repeatedly and that the meeting needed to move forward. Wasserman Schultz is the ranking member of the House Legislative Branch Appropriations Subcommittee.
The hearing came one day after panel members questioned why Capitol Police requested a $35 million increase in its budget, three months after appropriators gave the agency additional money following attacks in Paris and San Bernardino, Calif.
The Capitol Police budget has more than quadrupled since 9/11. Lawmakers have suggested this year may be the time to begin restoring funds to other Legislative Branch agencies that have seen their budgets cut or flat lined in the years following the recession.
Law enforcement officials cite domestic and international attacks as reasons to beef up security, but Outgoing Police Chief Kim C. Dine said Tuesday there is currently no credible threat to Capitol Hill.
On Feb. 22, staff of three House office garages began passing through metal detectors as part of a measure to close security loopholes long known by law enforcement officials. It was sped up in part after two incidents over four days in July 2014 involving a visitor and a staffer trying to enter the building with handguns.
Irving also pointed to violent attacks elsewhere as reasons to speed up the House garage initiative.
Sam Farr, D-Calif., also questioned the move. Farr said law enforcement should prioritize solving existing problems such as long lines to get into office buildings and keeping garages open for people who work late.
Farr, whose office is in Longworth, said the garage initiative was “just an affront to staff.”
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