U.S. Capitol Police

United States capitol police is a police force charged with the responsibility of protecting the United States Congress within the District of Columbia and all over the United States and its boundaries. It was created by the congress in 1828 because of the physical attack on the son of John Quincy Adams in the Capitol Rotunda. At the start of the force, it was composed of only five officers who were providing security to the Capitol Building. Its initial roles were to provide security for the United States capital. The mission of the United States capitol police was later stretched to include congressional community and their visitors with various police services. The security services provided by the United States capitol police are done through various specialty support units, foot and vehicle patrols, setting up fixed police posts, full time control and emergency response team, e.t.c. In 2007, United States capitol police had 1,700 members.

Currently, the responsibilities of United States capitol police include protecting lives and property of the public, preventing, detecting, and investigating criminal activities and ensuring traffic rules are followed in big congressional buildings, parks, and thorough fares are charged. The United States capitol police exclusively operate within the United States Capital Grounds and also have a link with other law enforcement agencies such as United States Park Police and the Metropolitan Police department of District of Columbia. In the District of Columbia, their area of operation is approximately 200 blocks around the complex. They have additional responsibility of protecting the members of congress, officers of congress, their families all over America, its territories and belongings, and the District of Columbia.

USCP has its recruits sent for initial training in Federal Law Enforcement Training Center which is found in Glynco. On some occasions, they can be sent to FLETC located in Artesia, NM, but this is not commonly done. After completing the 12 weeks training at FLETC, they are then sent to FLETC which is located in Cheltenham, MD for another 13 weeks training. After the recruits have received the training, they are then sworn in as law enforcement officers and are posted to one of the three divisions to start their work. At the level of training, the salary is 54, 000 but this is later increased to 56, 000 after graduation. After serving for about 30 months, there is promotion to the rank of private first class officer and the annual salary is raised to 63,000.

The United States capitol police have various ranks and insignia in its structures. The lowest rank in this law enforcement agency is private officer this is then followed by private officer with training who has one chevron. There is a private first class officer who has a chevron and rocker. There is also the rank of a technician, detective or Metropolitan Police officer, sergeant who is distinguished with 3 chevrons. Lieutenant has one gold bar, captain has 2 gold bars, inspector has 1 gold oak leaf, deputy chief has 2 stars, assistant chief 3 stars, and finally the highest post in this agency is the chief of the capitol police who has 4 stars.

Being a federal agency, the United States capitol police has numerous external entities. The entities include Government accounting office, office of the inspector general, and congressional committees which are charged with the responsibility of regular assessment and appraisal of the operational and the office running of the department. United States Capitol Police willingly requested for the CALEA Law enforcement Accreditation and they were awarded in 1999. After the initial accreditation, they have received accreditation twice and currently comply with 352 of the 463 standards. The department is currently very open to scrutiny and this enhances their mission which is to protect and provide security to the Congress for it to achieve their constitutional roles in a secure and open environment.  

United states Capitol Police officers have been killed while are on duty. The fondly remembered incident occurred in 1984 where a training incident resulted into death of Sergeant Christopher Eney. There was also a case of a mentally ill gunman called Russell Eugene Weston Jr. who shot dead Jacob Chestnut and detective John Gibson on July 24th, 1998. The two shot officers were laid in honor in the Rotunda awaiting their burial in Arlington National Cemetery. Chestnut became the first black American to be laid in honor in the Rotunda.

The United States capitol police, through the Capitol Police Board, have exclusive responsibility and control for policing US capitol buildings and grounds. Capitol police board is made up of sergeant at arms of the United States Senate and United States House of Representatives, and the Architect of the capitol.  Metropolitan police department are allowed by the law to carry out arrest within the capitol building and grounds for any unlawful activity. In contrary, metropolitan police department members are not allowed to make arrest, serve a warrant, or even patrol the capitol building without the authority of the United States Capitol Police. They are only responsible to the areas which are not under the jurisdiction of the capitol police, for example Capitol Buildings and Grounds.

Capitol police is allowed to carry out arrest and if not implement the laws of the united states, in addition to laws of district of Columbia in Capitol buildings and Grounds and other possessions under the control of the Architect of the capitol within the areas. Arrest can be carried out within the District of Columbia for any crime or violence committed in the full view of the capitol police officer when he is carrying out the official duties. Arrest can also be done to avoid looming loss of life or even injury to people, or damage to or even loss of a property when the capitol police officer is carrying out official duties. Arrest can still be made within the District of Columbia in relation to any crime of violence committed within the United States Capitol Grounds.

There are some procedural guidelines which the capitol police must follow when carrying out their duties. Investigations of criminal acts committed within the capitol buildings are done by the capitol police. The only types of cases they do not handle are homicide and serious sex crimes which are done by the metropolitan police department though they get assistance from the capitol police. Within the capitol police, there is a Civil Disturbance Unit which is charged with the responsibility of carrying out mass arrests within the United States capitol buildings and grounds. Capitol police has the right to use of the Washington Area Law Enforcement system and National Crime information Center. They are also allowed to use the Teletype system of the metropolitan police department to ferry information to the telecommunication branch and synchronized operations command center to feed the data.

Recently the United States capitol police have taken several bold steps towards increasing security around the capitol buildings. Some of the steps they have taken include retaining officers to shoot suspected suicide bombers in the head if other efforts to stop the attacker have flopped. These orders have been given out by the police chief Terrace Gainer. He has also decided to close a major thoroughfare and enforce about 14 vehicle check points on Capitol Hill.  There is also intensive training of capitol police officers together with the Israeli counterterrorism experts and bomb technicians. These are considered as major steps towards intensifying security measures.

Many federal law enforcement officials who are involved in counterterrorism work and others who work in Capitol Hill believes that the capitol was the main target of hijackings and of the September 11th attack, and is still considered as a major target for terrorist attacks. The officers believe coupled with anthrax and ricin attacks which were carried out in senate offices has elicited fear among many workers operating and living around Capitol Hill. From the time he took the leadership of the capitol police, Gainer has placed more emphasis on how to improve security services he is currently offering to 535 congress members.


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