The Capitol Police has “widened the net” of events off Capitol Hill where the agency has acted to ensure protection for lawmakers since the shooting at a Republican baseball practice last June, Chief Matthew Verderosa told members of the House Administration Committee on Tuesday.
The agency has engaged with local law enforcement for over 400 events outside of the Capitol complex, including for member town hall meetings and other district events. Lawmakers have expressed concern over safety at remote events and meetings after the shooting and as political tensions have ramped up rhetoric and actions by citizens.
“We are looking at coverage more globally,” he said.
The number of threat assessment cases opened and investigated by the Capitol Police nearly doubled, Verderosa said in his testimony before the panel on the force’s strategic plans.
The increased activity, however, comes as the workforce remains a major ongoing concern for lawmakers and the department’s officials. Management of human capital is a top challenge, acting Capitol Police Inspector General Michael Bolton testified.
“We are always trying to balance between having adequate number of officers on post, with overtime and the restriction on that and being able to maintain security,” he said.
Bolton told lawmakers the department has already taken steps to strengthen training and recruitment since his most recent report.
The fiscal 2019 Legislative Branch appropriations bill, which passed the House and was included in a three-bill package passed by the Senate on Monday, would boost funding for the Capitol Police by $26.5 million to $453 million. The increase would be used to deploy 92 additional officers.
Evaluation of the Capitol Police workforce may have changes in store if the Verderosa gets his way. He told the panel he’d like an overhaul of the personnel evaluation system, a response to recommendations from previous reviews.
Verderosa would like the evaluation to assess not just the general goals of the department, but also specific benchmarks for officers and their particular roles. He said the assessments should be tied to opportunities, including promotions and transfers to specialized units.
“People deserve to know whether they are doing well and where they need improvement, and that is a two-way street,” he said.
Verderosa said the department will continue to “draw down the difference between our … responsibilities and the mission gap in personnel.”
Use of overtime is a perennial issue for the force, and the IG found that understaffing has led to excessive overtime expenses in the past. Verderosa said with more robust staffing, he hopes to bridge the gap between overtime and mission needs.
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