CAPITOL POLICE – BRICKBATS AND BOUQUETS

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By  Shafaat Khan, Copy Edited by Adam Rizvi, TIO: The Capitol Police began in 1801 with the appointment of a single guard to oversee the move of Congress from Philadelphia to Washington, D.C. His task, according to a court filing, was to “take as much care as possible with the property of the United States.”

Today, it is in crisis once, with calls for a full investigation into what lawmakers have called a “severe systemic failure” that allowed an angry mob of Trump loyalists to storm the Capitol on January 6th, an episode that left five people dead, including one Capitol Police officer.

Several officers have been suspended and 17 more are under investigation, according to a senior congressional aide.  The department is accustomed to being shielded from the type of public disclosure that is routine for ordinary police agencies. But since January 6 rampage, the department’s chief and two other top security officials have resigned, and its congressional overseers have pressed for answers.

UNITED STATES – JANUARY 23: The 35 officers of Recruit Officer Class #178 take the oath during the U.S. Capitol Police graduation ceremony in the Capitol Visitor Center auditorium on Friday, Jan. 23, 2014. (Photo By Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)Also, Read: Trump, the transparent

Operating under the protective wing of Congress, the Capitol Police has more than 2,000 officers to defend two square miles and a half-billion dollar budget — bigger than those that fund the police departments in Atlanta and Detroit.

But it has long suffered from the same troubles that afflict many other police forces: claims of an old boys’ network, glass ceilings, racial bias and retaliation. There have been complaints, too, of lax discipline and of promotions for white commanders who faced misconduct allegations, but harsh treatment for women and Black officers.

Capitol Police officials have not responded to numerous requests for comment, nor has anyone in the department addressed the widely circulated videos that appear to show some officers allowing the rioters to enter the building, or treating them in a sympathetic manner, while their colleagues were being assaulted with fire extinguishers, flagpoles and hockey sticks.

Also, Read: Presence of Indian Flag carried by rioting mobs at Capitol Hill, sparks shame and horror

The responsibilities of the Capitol Police are vastly different from those of ordinary police departments. The force protects the Capitol grounds, members of Congress and staff, and it screens millions of visitors a year. Officers are expected to recognize the 535 lawmakers and to avoid offending them.

Before last week’s televised scenes of officers attacked and outnumbered, the job of a Capitol Police officer was considered relatively safe and prestigious.  Officers occasionally make arrests for minor crimes like smoking marijuana outside Union Station, according to a report by a watchdog group that complained of “mission creep.”

The department is overseen by a board that includes the sergeants-at-arms from each chamber, who must answer to their respective majorities and who often take politics into account, former officials said, resulting in a hamstrung force that is rarely able to take swift unilateral action.

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Steven Sund — who resigned his post as chief of the department after last week’s rampage — told The Washington Post that he had asked the sergeants-at-arms for permission to put the National Guard on standby last week, in anticipation of huge, possibly violent, crowds. But the sergeants-at-arms refused, he said, citing concerns about “optics.”

UNITED STATES – JANUARY 23: The 35 officers of Recruit Officer Class #178 take the oath during the U.S. Capitol Police graduation ceremony in the Capitol Visitor Center auditorium on Friday, Jan. 23, 2014. (Photo By Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)

Allegations of gender discrimination have dogged the department for years. In lawsuits, female officers have described a culture of sexual harassment, with commanders rarely punished for lewd remarks or for sleeping with subordinates.  At the same time, they say, women have been disciplined harshly for more minor offenses. In one instance, a sergeant was demoted and suspended after she leaked reports that a fellow officer had left a gun in a restroom at the Capitol, according to court papers, while little happened to that officer.

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The department has also faced repeated complaints of racism. A lawsuit filed in 2001 by more than 250 Black officers, including Ms. Blackmon-Malloy, remains unresolved, and current and former officers say the problems persist. There are no Black men on the force with a rank higher than captain.  At the same time, many of the officers who have been lauded for heroism, including the two officers who helped stop a shooting in 2017 at a congressional baseball practice, have been Black. So is Eugene Goodman, the officer who was captured on video running up the stairs in the Capitol last week, apparently luring rioters away from the Senate.

With the spotlight on the force, we expect to see some changes in the culture, composition, leadership and performance, going forward.  This will be the most desired outcome!

Compiled & Curated By Humra Kidwai 

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