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Posted at 5 a.m. on June 17, 2014
Rank-and-file Capitol Police officers are suggesting the department needs better oversight after a female officer allegedly having an affair with a male top deputy chief was detailed to a coveted assignment.
To those raising alarm bells, it appears as though the subordinate was transferred to a nice, cushy job to remove her from the deputy chief’s chain of command. For about a month, police with knowledge of the relationship — now under investigation by the Capitol Police inspector general — have been suggesting that the romance between a deputy chief and a subordinate married to a fellow officer violates decorum and could even lead to workplace violence.
“They all carry guns to work every day,” said an officer who spoke to CQ Roll Call on the condition of anonymity because of concerns about repercussions. Members of Congress with oversight over Capitol Police operations and the department’s budget told CQ Roll Call that the investigation is on their radar. They said they are awaiting a report from the inspector general, an official appointed by the Capitol Police Board, before taking action.
“The U.S. Capitol Police is a military organization for all practical purposes. … You know, everything has to be extremely transparent,” said House Administration Chairwoman Candice S. Miller, R-Mich. “I’ve had several conversations about it so far. We are looking for the I.G.’s report … then we’ll determine if there’s anything further that our committee needs to do.”
When asked to comment on the allegations of mismanagement and whether the deputy chief in question had been placed on administrative leave, Capitol Police spokesman Shennell Antrobus provided a statement.
“The U.S. Capitol Police does not comment on personnel matters to help ensure the integrity of our internal processes and investigations and the privacy of our employees,” the statement read. “The Department cautions against publishing unsubstantiated information that may impact our employees’ professional and personal lives.
“Generally, it is a management right to assign work to carry out the mission of the Department,” the statement continued. “With regard to the authorities of the USCP Inspector General (OIG), the OIG is a statutorily established independent office and has the authority and responsibility to supervise and conduct audits, inspections, and investigations involving USCP programs, functions, systems, or operations.”
According to department policy, officers are detailed to new assignments to fill department needs for a limited period of time, based on their skills and abilities. Details are different from transfers or promotions. The particular detail in question removed the female officer from a post in the Senate and moved her to an administrative role with the background investigations unit.
Six officers who also spoke with CQ Roll Call on a condition of anonymity see the alleged affair and job shuffle — first reported by National Journal — as only the most recent example of an absence of leadership in the command structure of the Capitol Police. They allege department leaders handpick friends to fill plum spots and shuffle assignments on the basis of favoritism, not merit.
In its most recent newsletter for union members, the Capitol Police Labor Committee suggested a crisis of leadership that is crushing morale . The newsletter included an article on a Diversity Office that was established under the auspices of ensuring transparency and consistency in selection and promotion processes.
Officer Chris Ferguson, second vice chairman of the committee, claims in the newsletter that officers were chosen by friends to fill jobs in the department’s Diversity Office that were never announced as open. In an effort to shed some light on Diversity Office hiring, the union filed an unfair labor practice complaint against it with the Office of Compliance. The November 2012 complaint alleged that the Capitol Police failed to respond to a valid request for information about the positions.
Ferguson, who did not respond to calls and emails for this story, further wrote the program is “tainted” and that the department violated its labor contract.
Capitol Police maintain that the Diversity Office does not fall within the bounds of the bargaining unit because it reports directly to Chief Kim C. Dine, and because the positions are not filled with Uniformed Service Bureau personnel.
The Office of Compliance, which is responsible for enforcing workplace fairness laws for the legislative branch, ruled in favor of the union, deciding that the Capitol Police did violate a statute when it failed to promptly respond to the request for information. However, the OOC decided against pursuing a complaint and closed the case.
For now, the lawmakers keeping tabs on the Capitol Police are focused on the accusations related to the alleged affair, not broader management issues.
Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz, D-Fla., ranking member of the House Appropriations Legislative Branch Subcommittee, said officers sometimes pull her aside on the Hill to talk about problems they have observed or things they want the self-described legislative branch “geek” to notice.
“The Capitol Police actually made us aware of this accusation, and you know we’re going to take a close look at it and spend some time trying to figure out just how deep of a problem it is, and where protocol was broken and just get some answers,” Wasserman Schultz told CQ Roll Call late last week. “I have no information about any broader problem at this point.”
Rep. James P. Moran, D-Va., a fellow legislative branch appropriator, said it seemed “a bit ironic that the branch of the government whose principal job is one of oversight seems to provide only marginal oversight over some of its own operations.
“I think that there are so many Capitol Police, both the regular force and the management, who do such a good job that we really are hesitant to provide a whole lot of scrutiny, but I think we’re going to have to discuss it further,” he said, adding that he planned to talk to his colleagues on the committee that holds the agency’s purse strings.
“We’ll see what comes of it,” Moran said, “but I’m certainly not going to discuss it publicly at this point.” The veteran lawmaker said his office’s contact with the Capitol Police tends to be positive, and “some of this stuff is going on behind the scenes.”
“I don’t know that it’s necessarily bad,” he added, “but I do know that oversight may be a bit lacking because we tend to give the benefit of the doubt to the Capitol Police.”