Capitol cops seek an outsider as chief

Capitol cops want an outside candidate as the new chief of police instead of acting Chief Tom Reynolds, according to the head of the police labor union.

Because of budget fiascos the force has faced under its current leadership, rank-and-file police want the executive board charged with picking a new chief to give the force a fresh start by selecting someone from the outside. 

“A good population of the officers think they should go outside” for a candidate, U.S. Capitol Police Labor Committee Chairman Jim Konczos told The Hill.

He said many police would view Reynolds as too close to former Chief Phillip Morse, who in April announced his plans to retire after helming the department since 2006. Reynolds was named acting chief in May and is to hold that responsibility until a permanent replacement is found.

“We had Phil Morse for five years, and people weren’t thrilled by the job he did,” Konczos said, noting an external hire would serve as a “clean slate” for the department.

“I would like to think [Reynolds is] his own man, but they came up through the department together, and every rank along the way, they always got it together until obviously [Reynolds] had to stop at deputy chief when Morse made chief,” he added. “So the concerns are that it’s going to be just business as usual.”

More than 1,000 of the estimated 1,400 Capitol Police officers are union members, and Konczos said not a single one has expressed support to him or his colleagues for an in-house candidate.

“They believe it starts from the top,” said Konczos of officers’ issues and complaints with the department.

Chief among those concerns are cost overruns, particularly with a program that was to upgrade police radio systems. Officers must still contend with poor communications connectivity around the Capitol complex, which could prove detrimental to security, despite a modernization program that has cost $100 million. The program was originally to cost $35 million. 

The Capitol Police also faced criticism in 2010 when a $5.5 million budget shortfall led members of the House Legislative Branch subcommittee to threaten to strip the department of its budget authority. The department later attributed the deficit to human error in calculating employee salaries.

The Capitol Police Board, composed of Senate Sergeant at Arms Terry Gainer, House Sergeant at Arms Paul Irving and Architect of the Capitol Stephen Ayers, is just weeks away from hiring an executive search firm to assist in the candidate recruitment process, according to Gainer.

The firm will take 45 to 60 days to collect applications for the position, and will then whittle the candidates down for interviews with the board, which will then make a decision, Gainer said, noting the contract with the executive search firm is expected to come in below $150,000.

Gainer estimated a final candidate would be selected in late September, leaving plenty of time for the new chief to get up to speed for the 2013 presidential inauguration.

“We’re looking for the best candidate,” he concluded. “I think the board is open to someone from inside the department as well as outside.”