Spending bill report would overhaul Capitol Police

Panel calls for removal of commemorations of white supremacists and Confederates

A statue of James Z. George, known as Mississippi’s “Great Commoner” is on display in the Capitol Visitor Center. (CQ Roll Call)
A statue of James Z. George, known as Mississippi’s “Great Commoner” is on display in the Capitol Visitor Center. (CQ Roll Call)
Posted June 28, 2021 at 5:48pm

The House’s $4.8 billion fiscal 2022 draft Legislative Branch bill and accompanying report seek to implement several changes at the Capitol Police department and remove statues of people in the Capitol who were part of the Confederacy or were otherwise white supremacists.

The report, released Monday ahead of the Appropriations Committee markup on Tuesday, would instruct the Capitol Police, which would receive $603.9 million in fiscal 2022, to make its arrest data more user-friendly, require newly promoted supervisors to undergo enhanced leadership development and provide a plan to have all department employees maintain a security clearance and be subject to continuous vetting.

Further, it would require the department to report to Congress on the breadth of training programs the Capitol Police uses that focus on racial profiling, implicit bias, procedural justice, use of force and preventing excessive use of force.

Capitol Police’s information sharing with the public is limited. The department, as a part of the legislative branch, is not subject to the Freedom of Information Act and is not required to comply with document requests from the press or the public. Arrest reports are disclosed on a weekly basis and not easy to navigate or analyze because they are not searchable or sortable. Inspector general reports compiled by the department’s oversight official, Michael A. Bolton, are not made available to the public.

The report stops short of calling for the department to be bound by the Freedom of Information Act. Instead, it would direct the Capitol Police “to develop a policy and procedure for the sharing of information that follows the spirit of the Freedom of Information Act.”

The committee wants Bolton’s office to make Capitol Police inspector general reports public “if they do not compromise law enforcement activities, national security, or Congressional security and processes without redaction.”

Bolton has submitted several flash reports to Congress on department failures surrounding the Jan. 6 attack on Congress. One of Bolton’s recommendations was to “require its sworn and operational civilian employees to obtain a Top-Secret clearance and require that administrative civilian employees obtain a minimum of a Secret clearance.” The department would be directed by the committee to establish an implementation plan to meet Bolton’s recommendation on the security clearances and periodic reinvestigations.

CQ Roll Call reported that Bolton found the department spent more than $90,000 to train its Containment Emergency Response Team (CERT) with Northern Red, a company that displays symbols often associated with white supremacists. The committee report would direct Bolton “to assess current practices to prevent, white supremacist and other extremist organizations infiltration of and sympathy to such groups by the Capitol Police Force and the successes or failures of these methods.”

Examinations of the Jan. 6 attack found Capitol Police leaders were ill-prepared. The Appropriations panel seeks to make sure new leaders in the department have the knowledge and experience to lead officers by proposing a training program that builds on a current plan for new sergeants and lieutenants.

“The Committee believes that this plan should include, but is not limited to, a formal rotation of the new supervisors within the core operational elements to ensure that these new supervisors have a more in-depth understanding of the operational functions of the Department, to include specialty units, civil disturbance unit functionality, division operations, and the processes specific to the sworn operations of the Department,” the report says.

The department’s Civil Disturbance Unit was highlighted by Bolton as in dire need of restructuring. CDU, the department’s riot control unit, made many miscalculations in its Jan. 5 planning memo.

“Additionally, the plan should include the manner in which the new supervisors will learn the administrative support functions necessary for supervisors to support and lead the rank and file workforce in the performance of their duties,” the report says.

There are numerous security enhancements included in the House proposal. The panel wants the sergeant-at-arms, in consultation with the Capitol Police, “to undertake an assessment of the viability of installing an automated gunshot detection system throughout the United States Capitol Complex.”

The committee recommends $62 million for maintenance and security enhancements for the Capitol Police and Architect of the Capitol. This includes the committee’s recommendation for the Architect of the Capitol to consider forced entry/ballistic resistant wooden doors.

Bustin’ out

The panel would direct the Architect of the Capitol to remove statues or busts in the Capitol “that represent figures who participated in the Confederate Army or government, as well as the statues of white supremacists Charles Aycock, John C. Calhoun, and James Paul Clarke and the bust of Roger B. Taney.”

The Architect of the Capitol would be tasked with working with affected donor states to return such items. If the language is adopted by the Senate and becomes law, some states would have to completely revamp their offerings. Mississippi is the only state represented in the National Statuary Hall Collection by two men who served in the Confederacy. Neither Jefferson Davis, a former senator and Confederate president, nor James Z. George, a former senator and Confederate colonel, was born in Mississippi; they were born in Kentucky and Georgia, respectively.

South Carolina is represented by Wade Hampton, a Confederate, and John C. Calhoun, a white supremacist and former U.S. vice president who died before the Confederacy was established.

“The placement of statues in the Capitol commemorating men who tried to overthrow the government of the United States or who were white supremacists has been controversial for years and offensive to many of the visitors who come to the Capitol each year,” the report says. “The Committee believes their removal is long overdue.”