New finger pointed at Capitol Police future after Pelosi home invasion

House appropriations chair Rosa DeLauro (D-Conn.) said ‘what is needed is that we shouldn’t be anecdotal or knee-jerk in the response’ to Pelosi’s home invasion .

“The issue of protecting families must be taken very seriously, given what happened to Paul Pelosi,” she added. A previous round of emergency funding for the police, she said, had come after extensive consultation with Hill experts and leaders.

Thomas Manger, Capitol Police Chief made a rare plea this week for further assistance following the break-in and assault on Pelosi that led to a series of federal and local charges against alleged perpetrator David DePape. But as DeLauro pointed out, the department is still deciding what a new request for funding might look like.

The department’s budget topped $515 million for fiscal year 2021, not including $70.6 million in additional funding after the Jan. 6 attack. This provides for nearly 2,450 employees, including around 2,000 sworn agents.

Manger also alluded to adding “redundancies” to the current congressional leadership protection regime, which is run by the Capitol Police’s dignitary protection division. That unit, which stumbled twice in 2015 when officers were discovered leaving loaded firearms unattended in the Capitol, is drawing pointed questions from a powerful Pelosi ally: the chairwoman of the committee. House Admin, Zoe Lofgren (D-California).

In a Wednesday letter, Lofgren revealed that the force’s independent watchdog had found its training program to be “self-directed” and lacked a “separate, impartial unit to conduct specialist training.”

And she didn’t limit her criticism to the dignitary protection division. Capitol police have resisted congressional instructions to make general inspector reports public, but they revealed the watchdog noted “critical deficiencies” in its training practices at all levels, including the unit. protection of leaders.

The division drew praise in 2017 when lawmakers on the ground credited House Minority Whip detail Steve Scalise (R-La.) with shooting down the shooter who attacked the Republican baseball team’s morning practice.

Although the force acknowledged that the cameras at Pelosi’s San Francisco residence were not closely monitored during Friday’s home invasion because Nancy Pelosi was not there at the time, those cameras are monitored. by a separate division of the department.

‘No matter what you do’

The 2015 gun incidents — with a gun found by a young child visiting the Capitol — weren’t the only times that year members of the Dignitary Protection Division broke the rules of the Capitol Police.

In a summer 2015 episode, members of then-Nancy Pelosi’s security detail had their service weapons stolen in a car robbery while on a shopping excursion in San Francisco, four claim. people familiar with the situation. The officers remained on the House Minority Leader’s detail following the previously unreported incident, the four said, even though their conduct while on duty violated the force’s requirements that officers keep their service weapons secure.

The department declined to say whether any officers from the 2015 incident are still serving in Pelosi’s details.

Capitol Police responded to inquiries about last week’s attack on Paul Pelosi with a statement citing the many changes made to protect the Hill since Jan. 6, “many of which are complicated fixes that take time and Resource”. The department added that it would “accelerate” plans to expand operations to protect lawmakers after Friday’s attack.

In response to a question about the 2015 break-in that touched Pelosi’s details, the department said it was now focused on “big picture” changes and could not “afford to rehash “a ‘properly handled’ problem from seven years ago. A Pelosi spokesperson declined to comment.

Jodi Breiterman, a former Capitol Police sergeant who was demoted after alerting a reporter to another officer’s gun left unattended in a bathroom at the Capitol’s Visitor Center, said the division of dignitaries was particularly secretive. She had previously sought a job in the department’s Office of Protective Services, which has several sections, including dignitary protection, but did not get it, according to court documents.

“They’re trying to keep to themselves because they’re protecting Congress,” Breiterman said of the dignitary protection division in an interview, simultaneously emphasizing his support for the department. “If you get along with whoever’s in charge of Congress and he says you’re golden, you’ll never get in trouble. It doesn’t matter what you do.

Breiterman retired from the force after the January 6 uprising.

Policing and protection

The Jan. 6 attack had accelerated a shift in Capitol Police, which is now working to implement a series of reforms to secure the hill itself, stem a tide of post-insurgency departures, and reorient the Department of 2,300 men to become a Force Protector. Staffing is a recurring issue for the department, including the dignitary protection division – which is currently headed by a lieutenant, according to two people familiar with the position, rather than a senior-ranking inspector who normally leads the section.

“Our dignitary protection division lieutenant is a dedicated, honorable and excellent officer,” Capitol Police said in a statement. The department has previously highlighted the time it takes to complete promotions, while filling vacancies and moving officers through the ranks.

The department confirmed later Friday that a captain was being moved to oversee the dignitary protection division, a move it said was ‘made earlier this week’ to expedite its plans to review its protection operations. .

Part of the department’s confounding challenge is its unique position among other federal law enforcement agencies due to its multiple roles. Its officers have to juggle dealing with tourists, potential threats to lawmakers and local crime — a triple mandate that’s quite different from that of other law enforcement.

“Rolling over people smoking weed six blocks from the Capitol is a waste of resources…they need to focus on safety, not the police,” said Daniel Schuman, the advocacy group’s policy director. Demand Progress, which also called for “accountability” and independent oversight if funding is increased.

Those who call for reshaping the strength of a traditional policing model into a protective one point to the hundreds of traffic stops and citations for low-level drug offenses as evidence that Capitol police resources could be reallocated to a set of basic priorities. The ministry, for its part, pointed out threats in the blocks surroundings the Capitol caught by Capitol Police as evidence of his need to patrol the area.

Gus Papathanasiou, who heads the department’s union, said he agreed with the chief’s call for more resources. While the Secret Service’s budget is four times larger than that of the Capitol Police, he observed, the latter force has “535 members of Congress to protect, plus the Capitol complex which receives more than one million visitors a year – and we deal with protests all the time. time.”

Sworn officers in the dignitary protection division are not members of the Capitol Police union, which has about 1,000 members.

What the future holds

Prior to the assault on Paul Pelosi, Congress had already approved funding for lawmakers to install security equipment in their homes and district offices. This year’s government spending bill would increase the amount of money for both types of security improvements, but whether it becomes law or is superseded by an interim fix remains an open question.

Congress’s spending machinery doesn’t always respond quickly to threats, but DeLauro — the appropriations chair in charge of federal funding in her chamber — promised lawmakers could move quickly to meet any needs.

“It’s the emotional weight of what happened that also helps determine how quickly we need to act,” she said.

Sen. Chris Murphy (D-Conn.), a longtime member of the upper house subgroup overseeing Capitol police funding, said Congress has continually increased the department’s budget in part to allow to any lawmaker with serious and active threats against him to have a temporary detail if necessary.

“Maybe we should think about a lower trigger for the kind of threats that get you a temporary detail,” Murphy said.

Burgess Everett contributed to this report.

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