Jennifer Shutt, Georgia Recorder
January 9, 2024
WASHINGTON — The union representing U.S. Capitol Police is warning that the federal law enforcement agency doesn’t have enough manpower to address threats to members of Congress and is criticizing the Architect of the Capitol for not implementing some of the changes proposed following the Jan. 6, 2021 attack.
“We’ve never seen a threat environment like this,” union Chairman Gus Papathanasiou said in a written statement. “Given the profound divisions in this country and this year’s elections, people ask me if I’m concerned and I tell them I am worried — very worried.”
“There may be another contested election and we still haven’t addressed the manpower and security vulnerabilities that have been identified,” he added.
The two most significant issues facing Capitol security are that USCP leaders aren’t close to hiring all the officers they are authorized to and the “failure” of the Architect of the Capitol to implement certain changes to the buildings and surrounding campus, he wrote.
As the number of threats against lawmakers and their staff continues to increase each year, Papathanasiou said the USCP needs to hire more people to account for the number of officers who have left or are eligible for retirement.
“Putting aside the need to increase hiring, we urgently need to address the pending loss of officers who are due for retirement — over 500 officers are eligible to retire at any time,” Papathanasiou said.
“Many of the younger officers who were hired post-January 6th have resigned due to the conditions and hours we’re asked to work,” he said. “We lack the manpower to fill mission requirements, so officers are forced to work enormous amounts of overtime.”
As a result, USCP officers often work six days a week and double shifts, he said.
A USCP spokesperson said in a written statement that the agency has “more sworn employees than at any other point in this Department’s history — not to mention all of the new civilian positions to better support them.”
“Still, we agree that we all have to continue that progress as our mission to protect the Members of Congress during a heightened threat environment continues to expand,” the USCP spokesperson said. “Luckily, our recruiting team is working around the clock to bring us nearly 1,000 officer applications a month. The toughest task for us is to find the right women and men out of those applicants to join our growing Department.”
The USCP is authorized to hire 2,126 officers and currently has more than 2,000, according to the spokesperson. The department had about 1,800 on Jan. 6, 2021.
Congress is currently debating how much funding to allocate for USCP as part of the annual government funding process that was supposed to wrap up Oct. 1.
House Republicans’ bill proposed $780.9 million for USCP during the current fiscal year, a $46.3 million increase compared to current funding levels. That total includes $588.1 million for salaries and benefits, a boost of $46.3 million.
The report that accompanied the House bill noted “that, while the Department has aggressively sought qualified civilian applicants, it has had difficulty finding candidates that meet the Department’s rigorous standards.”
“The Department’s projections for fiscal year 2023 civilian hiring are below the authorized and appropriated levels and the Committee believes it will be difficult to hire the requested civilians for fiscal year 2024,” the House report states. “While the authorized number of civilians is supported, the Committee’s recommendation includes a reduction to the account due to historical under execution for civilian personnel.”
The Senate spending bill, which garnered bipartisan support, proposed $792 million for USCP, nearly $58 million more than its current budget. Almost $589 million would go toward salaries, benefits and overtime.
The Senate panel’s report said that lawmakers recognized “the expanding mission requirements for the United States Capitol Police in the area of Member protection.”
The report also calls on USCP to submit a report “that outlines the on-board strength of the USCP broken down by officials, officers, sworn recruits and civilians” as well as a “multi-year strategy to remediate staffing shortages and incentivize sworn hiring and retention in future fiscal years.”
“The Committee expects this report to be thorough and timely from the Department,” the report says. “The USCP shall provide quarterly updates to the Committee thereafter on its staffing efforts.”
The House and Senate are supposed to pass a final version of that Legislative Branch funding bill before the Feb. 2 deadline.
The Architect of the Capitol didn’t respond to a request for comment.
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