What would it take to change the culture of the Capitol Police? It’s a question one member of Congress mulled as the agency drew criticism this week over an internal newsletter warning of potential “fireworks” during Saturday’s Million Man March rally.
Rep. Rich Nugent, a Florida Republican and former sheriff, suggested the problem lies in Congress’ antiquated oversight structure — and maybe the speaker.
The Capitol Police Board, which has jurisdiction over the department, includes two men appointed by chamber leadership, House Sergeant-at-Arms Paul D. Irving and Senate Sergeant-at-Arms Frank J. Larkin, plus Architect of the Capitol Stephen T. Ayers, a presidential appointee.
“I understand why they do that, but it really is archaic and I don’t think it really goes to good law enforcement,” Nugent said during an interview in the speaker’s lobby. “They’re the ones that have to hold [Capitol Police] accountable. Because I don’t hold the sergeant at arms of the House accountable. Who does? The speaker of the House. He’s an appointee of the speaker, right?”
Nugent sits on the House Administration Committee, which has jurisdiction over the Capitol Police Board and day-to-day security operations. It is one of the few committees with a leader appointed directly by the speaker.
The Sept. 17 newsletter, which surfaced in The Washington Post on Oct. 6, raised concerns about Nation of Islam Leader Louis Farrakhan’s return to Washington, D.C., on Saturday. He will mark the 20th anniversary of the march on the National Mall.
For Capitol Police, that means a 4 a.m. roll call to prepare for major protest activity.
“By policing standards, the inaugural Million Man March was a success as the event was relatively violence free — and there were no major arrests, despite hundreds of thousands of attendees,” the newsletter stated. “But given today’s negative racial climate and the rise of the Black Lives Matter movement, there are legitimate concerns that the second march may not be as peaceful. And if Farrakhan’s rabble-rousing rhetoric leading up to the march is any indication, there certainly may be a few fireworks.”
Retiring Chief Kim C. Dine has sought to distance himself from the Sept. 17 memo, which was later rescinded.
SOURCE: Hannah Hess