Roll Call: Latest News on Capitol Hill, Congress, Politics and Elections
October 24, 2014

Posts in "Capitol Police"

October 24, 2014

Gainer’s Capitol Fence Is Not a Popular Concept

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Securing the perimeter of the Capitol’s open campus is a challenge for Capitol Police. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

The idea of building a security fence around the Capitol appears just as unpopular now as it was a decade ago, when then-Capitol Police Chief Terrance W. Gainer pitched the idea to Congress.

In 2004, House appropriators added language to the legislative branch appropriations bill to prohibit Capitol Police from spending public dollars on the project. At the time, amendment sponsor Sam Farr, D-Calif., said a fence “really hurt the image and understanding of what a democracy is all about.”

Gainer, who retired from his post as Senate sergeant-at-arms in the spring, is again talking about erecting a “tasteful fence” about a block around the Capitol that would allow people to get screened before entering the campus, but current law enforcement officials aren’t commenting and elected officials aren’t biting. Full story

October 23, 2014

Do the Capitol’s Sergeants-at-Arms Carry Guns? (Video)

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Gainer, left, at the Capitol in April with his predecessors Al Lenhardt and William Pickle. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

Members of the Canadian Parliament are praising as a hero House of Commons Sergeant-at-Arms Kevin Vickers, a former police superintendent, for his reported role in taking down the gunman who entered the building. Capitol Hill may be wondering if its own sergeants-at-arms usually pack heat.

“I didn’t carry it all the time,” former Senate Sergeant-at-Arms Terrance W. Gainer said on C-SPAN’s “Washington Journal” Thursday morning. “I had it close at hand in a locked compartment.”

Gainer, who served as chief of the Capitol Police before his seven-year gig in the Senate, said he frequently relied on the uniformed officers of the department. “We have concentric circles of security around here and so they are the first line of defense, but as the chief law enforcement officer, I was armed when I needed to be or thought it was appropriate,” he said.

Full story

October 22, 2014

Former Top Cop Suggests Capitol Complex Is Too Open (Audio)

Congress’ former top cop thinks there should be major changes to security at the 276-acre Capitol complex, saying its open and accessible campus is “much to my chagrin.”

Terrance W. Gainer said in an interview he would add gates around the Capitol perimeter and consider re-routing traffic around campus. Gainer made his comments as a federal judge ordered Omar Gonzalez to undergo a mental health evaluation within the next 30 days to determine whether he is competent to stand trial on federal and local charges of infiltrating the White House on Sept. 19. The case is causing major repercussions for the Secret Service.

It also prompted Gainer, the former Senate sergeant-at-arms who also served four years as the chief of the Capitol Police, to frankly address the challenges for guarding the complex against intrusions.

“One of the challenges the chief has, or the director of the Secret Service, is keeping everybody sharp all the time,” Gainer told CQ Roll Call. “Up on Capitol Hill we have, you know, 25,000 employees and 3 million visitors so it is very open, and keeping the officers alert and active, you know, is an important challenge.”

Full story

October 21, 2014

Second Capitol Hill Gun Case Ends With Plea Deal

photo 4 247x330 Second Capitol Hill Gun Case Ends With Plea Deal

Prestage was sentenced to probation and fines for carrying a loaded firearm into the Cannon House Office Building. (Hannah Hess/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

About three months after he was arrested at a security checkpoint in the Cannon House Office Building, Ronald Prestage pleaded guilty to two District of Columbia gun charges.

The South Carolina pork executive’s defense attorney appeared in a downtown D.C. courthouse on Tuesday morning to file guilty pleas to charges of possession of an unregistered firearm and unlawful possession of ammunition.

Prestage initially faced charges of carrying a pistol outside a home or business — a felony that carries up to five years in prison and $5,000 fine. Under the terms of a plea agreement with U.S. Attorney for the District of Columbia Ronald C. Machen Jr., offered after a court ruling dismantled D.C. gun laws, penalties were much lighter.

D. C. Superior Court Associate Judge John McCabe sentenced Prestage to 30 days in jail, but suspended the sentence, meaning he would not be locked up. Prestage has been ordered to serve six months unsupervised probation, which means he is not required to report to a probation officer. McCabe ordered Prestage to pay $100 in court costs by the end of the year and comply with gun offender registration requirements, according to court documents.

Capitol Police found a loaded semi-automatic pistol and magazine in Prestage’s briefcase on July 23 — only a few days after cops arrested Capitol Hill aide Ryan Shucard after finding a 9mm handgun in his bag. Rep. Tom Marino, R-Pa., reinstated Shucard as his press secretary in late September following a similar plea agreement.

RELATED:

Capitol Hill Staffer Arrested on Gun Charge Returns to Work

Pork Executive Was Carrying ‘Fully Functional’ Pistol, Police Say

U.S. Attorney Offers Plea Deals in Capitol Hill Gun Cases

Capitol Police Stop Another Gun From Entering Cannon Building (Updated)

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October 20, 2014

Late-Night Terrorism Drills Test D.C. Officials

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Homeland security officials staged a shooting similar to the 2013 Navy Yard tragedy. (Douglas Graham/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

Police in the District of Columbia responded to a staged suicide bombing shortly after 9 p.m. Sunday, on the former Walter Reed Army Medical Center site in Northwest Washington.

“Where’s everybody going? Can you help us?” a woman shrieked from a curb near the scene of the explosion.

The actress whimpered, putting on a dramatic display for observers from the FBI and other government agencies watching one act in the District’s full-scale overnight emergency preparedness drill from a nearby hilltop.

The cop who rescued the actress rushed back up to the doorstep of the brick building, avoiding the body of another faux victim who did not survive the blast. Within minutes, a firetruck pulled up and firefighters unrolled a hose, preparing to decontaminate the area in case the improvised explosive device turned out to be a chemical bomb.

“Anybody who can walk comes this way,” instructed one of the first responders near the fire truck, after getting a rundown on casualties and injuries from an officer. So far, police had found at least seven victims in the staged terror activity, including some amputees.

The dramatic exercise was staged to test the District’s public safety capabilities. The emergency responders and actors from this scene would be followed in the next few hours by the hazardous materials team, bomb squad and other specialized teams who would be reacting to multiple terrorists attacks for the training event.

Full story

October 15, 2014

Capitol Police Replenish Their Ranks After Hiring Freeze

cap police030 091814 440x292 Capitol Police Replenish Their Ranks After Hiring Freeze

Sogoyou, a U.S. Capitol Police recruit, works out during a training session at the Federal Law Enforcement Training Center in Cheltenham, Md. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)

CHELTENHAM, Md. — Forearms pressed into the black asphalt, the Capitol Police’s 179th class of recruits shook and dripped with sweat in their third minute of planks. It was near 10 a.m. on an 80-degree morning in mid-September, and since 7 a.m. they had been performing squats, crunches and a particularly grueling training drill requiring them to drag a 165 pound dummy 40 feet.

“Is this what you want to do for a career?” yelled a trainer walking through the rows, examining their form. “If it is, you’ve got to reach down and pull yourself up by the bootstraps.”

Actually, the 23 men and two women in their fourth of seven days at the Federal Law Enforcement Training Center were wearing tennis shoes and department-issued navy blue T-shirts and mesh shorts. These recruits, among the 110 selected this year from a pool of 7,000 applicants, were drawn to a Capitol Police career for its prestige, exciting assignments and the benefits of a federal job with a starting salary of more than $56,000. But the message was clear. Full story

October 6, 2014

Gainer: Better Communication is the Lesson From Navy Yard Shooting

gainer 01 011211 524x335 Gainer: Better Communication is the Lesson From Navy Yard Shooting

(Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

Last fall’s massacre at the Navy Yard taught Capitol Hill law enforcement important lessons about front-line response and securing the chambers, according to former Senate Sergeant-at-Arms Terrance W. Gainer, who participated in a seminar on the subject Monday as part of his new role with Securitas USA.

One big takeaway: “Get communications to the troops quicker,” said Gainer, who retired this spring after seven years as the Senate’s top law enforcement officer and more than 46 years in public service.

Gainer gave a warm welcome to Metropolitan Police Department Chief Cathy L. Lanier, who gave a keynote speech during the George Washington University event, reflecting on the response to the mass shooting. Lanier listed a number of regional police forces that helped with the Navy Yard response, including the Park Police and FBI — but not Capitol Police. Full story

October 3, 2014

One Year Later, Family Protests Miriam Carey Shooting on Capitol Hill

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Family and friends of Miriam Carey, who was killed last year by Capitol Police, protest her death on the West Front of the Capitol on Friday. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)

Congress has slammed the Secret Service for incompetency during the past week, but last year’s fatal Capitol Hill shooting involving officers from the agency received only a fleeting, neutral mention.

Rep. Elijah E. Cummings, D-Md., spoke of the difficult job agents have making “instant life-or-death decisions in extremely stressful situations,” during his opening remarks in a House Oversight and Government Reform Committee hearing exploring failures by the Secret Service.

“Last year, for example, the Capitol Police shot and killed an unarmed woman with a 1-year-old girl in the backseat of her car,” Cummings said, referring to the Oct. 3, 2013, shooting of Miriam Carey. “Some praised their quick responses. Others criticized their actions. But they acted based upon their firsthand experience right here in the Capitol when another deranged individual burst through the doors and killed two Capitol Police officers,” he said of Russell Weston’s 1998 rampage.

Carey’s family hopes to rally critics on the first anniversary of the shooting for a silent protest planned for 1 p.m. near the James A. Garfield Monument southwest of the Capitol. Full story

October 2, 2014

You Can’t FOIA the Capitol Police

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(Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

Has Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., or Speaker John A. Boehner, R-Ohio, ever taken an elevator ride alongside an armed contractor with a criminal record?

The answer to that and other sensitive security questions about congressional protective details is hard to find, thanks to legislation enacted in 2004.

Capitol Police are exempted from having to release to another entity any information “that relates to actions taken … in response to an emergency situation, or to any other counterterrorism and security preparedness measures” unless they determine that releasing the information will not “jeopardize the security and safety” of the Capitol complex.

House appropriators inserted that language into the Legislative Branch Appropriations measure at the request of the department, according to reporting from this news organization and others at the time. A senior Capitol Police official said then that authority of the agency to withhold information had been challenged by various executive branch agencies.

The law shielded Capitol Police from having to provide information security plans to the Department of Homeland Security, FBI, CIA and other executive branch agencies that might submit Freedom of Information Act requests.

Counterterrorism information, such as actions related to anthrax or ricin attacks at the Capitol, could also be exempted. Asking for the exemption in 2004 bucked a post-Sept. 11 trend toward more information sharing among law enforcement agencies.

Nothing in the law prevents members of Congress or committees from obtaining information from the Capitol Police regarding operations and activities that affect the House or Senate.

Under the legislation, the Capitol Police Board — which consists of the police chief, architect of the Capitol, and both chambers’ sergeants-at-arms — has the authority to release information only if they determine it will not compromise safety of the buildings, grounds or any individual they protect. The board must act in consultation with law enforcement and security experts, plus appropriate congressional committees.

Capitol Police are authorized to protect members of Congress and their immediate family in any area of the United States, if the board determines such protection to be necessary. That includes the president pro tempore of the Senate, third in the line of succession to the presidency, after the vice president and speaker.

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September 24, 2014

D.C. Police Roll Out Body Cameras; None Planned for Capitol Police

graycam 330x330 D.C. Police Roll Out Body Cameras; None Planned for Capitol Police

Gray modeled camera-equipped glasses that are part of a D.C. police pilot program. (Hannah Hess/CQ Roll Call)

Congress escalated its calls for more transparency in law enforcement in the wake of the Aug. 9 shooting of teenager Michael Brown in Ferguson, Mo., suggesting body cameras for police officers might improve public safety.

The District of Columbia government, however, has been looking at the technology for more than a year. Capitol Police have also been keeping tabs on the new technology.

Beginning Oct. 1, approximately 165 officers from the Metropolitan Police Department will be patrolling the District of Columbia outfitted with sleek recording devices that attach to their shoulders, head or chest. The pilot program has a $1 million budget and is expected to last six months. It involves officers from all seven police districts testing five camera models from three different vendors. Full story

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