Harry Dunn challenging Gus Papathanasiou for Capitol Police union leader

Secret ballot vote will take place Nov. 18

Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., hugs Metropolitan Police Officer Michael Fanone and Capitol Police Officer Harry Dunn, right, who faced the insurrectionists, as the House votes on creating a Jan. 6th committee on June 30, 2021. They are joined by Rep. Norma J. Torres, D-Calif., bottom left; Sandra Garza, Brian Sicknick's partner; Gladys Sicknick, mother of Brian Sicknick, the Capitol Police officer who died from injuries sustained during attack; and Rep. Eric Swalwell, D-Calif. (CQ Roll Call)
Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., hugs Metropolitan Police Officer Michael Fanone and Capitol Police Officer Harry Dunn, right, who faced the insurrectionists, as the House votes on creating a Jan. 6th committee on June 30, 2021. They are joined by Rep. Norma J. Torres, D-Calif., bottom left; Sandra Garza, Brian Sicknick's partner; Gladys Sicknick, mother of Brian Sicknick, the Capitol Police officer who died from injuries sustained during attack; and Rep. Eric Swalwell, D-Calif. (CQ Roll Call)
Posted November 9, 2021 at 1:55pm

Capitol Police Officer Harry Dunn, who detailed the violence and racism he faced from supporters of former President Donald Trump during the Jan. 6 insurrection in testimony before the House panel investigating the attack, is running to unseat Gus Papathanasiou as head of the department’s union.

Papathanasiou has been chairman of the U.S. Capitol Police Labor Committee for the past five years.

A copy of the union’s newsletter detailing the statements of candidacy for the upcoming elections was obtained by CQ Roll Call. The secret ballot vote for the two-year term will be held on Nov. 18 and run for 24 hours. Aside from chairman, officers will cast ballots for other positions on the executive board, such as recording secretary.

Both Dunn and Papathanasiou declined comment.

Papathanasiou has been in leadership positions at the union since 2007. He served as a shop steward and first vice chairman before becoming chairman.

In his reelection pitch, Papathanasiou said that “by being financially prudent with the membership’s money,” the union is on “strong financial footing.” He pledged to keep the current dues structure.

Papathanasiou highlighted legal victories for the union, including a decision that ordered the department to rescind its decision to suspend the collective bargaining agreement. Papathanasiou said the union, under his leadership, went into “overdrive” after Jan. 6. Approximately 80 officers were injured, and two officers died in the aftermath of the attack.

He also cited millions of dollars in hazard pay, retention bonuses, mental health support and physical security upgrades the department has received.

In February, Papathanasiou led the charge in organizing a no confidence vote of several top department officials for their actions leading up to and on Jan. 6. That no confidence vote included then-acting Chief Yogananda Pittman; acting Assistant Chief Sean Gallagher; Chad Thomas, an assistant chief who left the department in June; and Eric Waldow, a deputy chief who recently submitted his retirement paperwork. Pittman and Gallagher are still in top roles at the department.

Dunn is approaching 14 years of service with the department. If elected, that would be his first leadership post in the union. 

It is time for a “transformation,” Dunn said in his message to voters. “This is a big moment that we are in, and we need to change the way the Capitol Police Union is not only viewed, but more importantly operated.”

He strongly advocated for the creation of an independent, 9/11-style commission to investigate the Capitol attack. Dunn, along with D.C. Metropolitan Police Officer Michael Fanone and Gladys Sicknick, the mother of fallen Capitol Police Officer Brian Sicknick, met with Republican senators in May and urged them to vote to create the Jan. 6 commission. That effort was halted by GOP opposition in the Senate.

When the House moved on and adopted the resolution creating the Jan. 6 select committee in June, Speaker Nancy Pelosi gave Fanone and Dunn a hug in the House gallery. Both were in attendance with Sicknick’s family.

In July, Dunn testified before the select committee and recounted the racism he faced as a Black Capitol Police officer that day. He described seeing a red, pro-Trump, “Make America Great Again” flag and a Confederate flag. Dunn later encountered a group that said they were at the Capitol complex to “stop the steal” and that “nobody voted for Joe Biden.” After Dunn told the group he voted for Biden, a flood of racial slurs were uttered at him. A woman in a pink MAGA shirt said, referring to Dunn, “This [racial slur] voted for Joe Biden.” The crowd then said, “Boo, f------ [racial slur].”

Dunn told the panel he goes to therapy and is involved in peer support groups as a result of the trauma brought on by the insurrection.