WASHINGTON - Yesterday, the Committee on House Administration held a joint hearing with the Senate Rules Committee entitled, "Oversight of the Capitol Police Board." This was the first time the full U.S. Capitol Police Board has testified before its authorizing committees in decades.
The Honorable William McFarland - Acting House Sergeant at Arms
Ms. Chere Rexroat - Acting Architect of the Capitol
Mr. J. Thomas Manger - Chief of U.S. Capitol Police
The Honorable Karen H. Gibson - Sergeant at Arms and Doorkeeper of the Senate
In case you missed it, here are the top takeaways:
1. Reforms to the Board are needed to ensure it is providing oversight of the U.S. Capitol Police, not involved in day-to-day operations of the Department.
Chairman Bryan Steil (WI-01): "I’d like to turn our attention to a 2017 Government Accountability Office Report, where the GAO did an analysis of the Board’s operations.
"It found that the U.S. Capitol Police Department's tactical decisions were being made by the Board, or the responsibility of the Board. An example of that would be the uniform standards and issuing of gear… pretty tactical, less strategic decision-making process. I'd like to see the Board operating a little bit more strategically than tactically. Can you comment on the reforms we can make?"
McFarland: "What I suggest is on little things like that, when it talks about the clothing of the Capitol Police, I do think that the Chief should make the ultimate decision on that. I don't think it should be a Board recommendation."
Rep. Steil: "I think there's a broad idea here as to how we get the Board to operate strategically, not tactically, so we can focus on oversight, de-politicizing Capitol Security, and supporting the men and women of Capitol Police."
2. U.S. Capitol Police may have violated its own personnel policies by unilaterally entering into a separation agreement with former Acting Chief Pittman.
Representative Morgan Griffith (VA-09): "Ms. Gibson, are you familiar with the separation agreement entered into between the United States Capitol Police and former Acting Chief of Police Pittman yes or no?"
Gibson: "I am familiar with that."
Rep. Griffith: "But you were not involved in that discussion?"
Gibson: "That's correct... The board was not aware of that agreement until the testimony before this committee."
Rep. Griffith: "Was Chief Manger privy to those discussions?"
Gibson: "Yes. We discussed this at the Board meeting... I actually think our discussion was more 'Well, we see the management of personnel within the Department to be within the chief's purview.' Back to the tactical vs. strategic. It was a significant event that we would have appreciated knowing about in advance."
Rep. Griffith: "My concern is that policy was changed, and that may or may not have been appropriate... my concern is if we've done it for one, are we going to do it for others? Has such an agreement been approved for any rank-and-file officers?"
Gibson: "I do not have knowledge of when it's been done, period, because again, it's a personnel management decision that the Board has not been involved in for any of the officers."
Rep. Stephanie Bice (OK-05): "We mentioned at the beginning of this hearing that we've worked hard to improve processes and sort of clarify issues… but on this particular topic [Pittman’s separation agreement], I think there's disagreement. It’s very clear that there's sort of this we're not quite sure... that the Chief can unilaterally make these decisions. It doesn't seem like there's real clarity on whether or not this policy has been put in place uniformly across the board, and I have concerns about that."
3. U.S. Capitol Police lacks necessary whistleblower protections.
Representative Anthony D'Esposito (NY-04): "Ms. Gibson, why hasn't the Capitol Police board directed the United States Capitol Police to implement specific whistleblower protections?"
Gibson: "I absolutely support whistleblower protections. It's essential to ensuring there's an environment in which an employee who might discover waste, fraud, and abuse would feel free and safe and secure in bringing that to someone's attention. Certainly the Board can... I think perhaps the best avenue might be to ask the IG to look at the Whistleblower Protection Program and assess its adequacy."