Police already preparing for 2009 inaugural

Before several presidential exploratory committees are formed, and long before the Iowa caucuses convene and voters make their decision, Capitol Police Chief Phillip Morse and other law enforcement officials will start planning security for the swearing-in of the 44th president of the United States.

“We are getting ready to start that,” Morse said in an interview Nov. 30 with The Hill. “It is a joint process between state, local and federal authorities, and planning starts fairly soon.”

The 2009 ceremony will not be Morse’s first. He helped plan the 2005 inaugural, experience that will be critical.

“Every time you do an event that requires security you always go back and evaluate what worked, what didn’t, and then you embrace what worked and you apply that to making things better next time,” Morse said, adding, “It’s important you debrief, addressing the things that [may have gone well].”

This time around, Morse and his colleagues at D.C. Metro police, U.S. Park Police, the FBI, CIA, Secret Service and other law enforcement entities will face a new security challenge that no one has faced before: the Capitol Visitor Center.

The massive complex will presumably be finished and in full operation by the time the 56th inauguration commences, leaving police to secure an extra 580,000 square feet of underground space.

Morse is unfazed by the expansion and said it will simply be security as usual.

“From the emergency operations standpoint — the CVC facility security is going to mirror what it is at the Capitol,” he said. 

“There are no changes that people will see except for the fact that visitors will enter through that complex rather than where they have done for many, many years.”

Morse will work with incoming D.C. Metropolitan Police Chief Kathy Lanier, who shares his law enforcement background and attended the same Johns Hopkins University police leadership program a few years after he did.

Morse said that as of Nov. 30 he had not spoken to Lanier, noting that Chief Charles Ramsey was still head of the D.C. force.

“I’ll reach out as a fellow Hopkins grad and also as a law enforcement friend to congratulate her,” Morse said.

Lanier was selected by incoming D.C. Mayor Adrian Fenty to head the police force last month.

Lanier said although there are several events that will require heavy police security and coordination before the inauguration, such as the president’s State of the Union speeches, she too is already considering arrangements for the January 2009 event.

“The inaugural is the most complex event [in the city],” she said. “I will have to have a real heavy hitter to help [execute security].”

Ensuring that the various law enforcement entities with jurisdiction in D.C. work seamlessly has been a challenge.

Lanier said she hopes to push the relationship with the U.S. Capitol Police and other law enforcement agencies further.

“I want to push that a little farther and try to get the integral agencies really, really [close] in terms of special operations and homeland security,” said Lanier.

Morse indicated that other than a few issues of overlapping concern between the agencies, he planned to focus centrally on security within the campus area.

“My job as the chief of the United States Capitol Police is to protect this campus and … protect members of Congress, to protect the visitors that come here, and that’s going to be my police department’s focus,” he said.

“Obviously we have overlapping jurisdictions — Metro Transit, Amtrak, metropolitan police, U.S. Park Police, all these agencies here in a three-block radius overlap — so it’s important for us to always communicate and talk to each other and should there be an instance where there’s something of mutual concern we will work on it,” he said.