Exodus of officers linked to security failure

A loss of staff caused by growing discontent with the way the Capitol Police are managed could have contributed to the security failure yesterday and may create additional problems, according to sources familiar with the reason behind the exodus of officers.

The force has lost 18 to 22 officers to U.S. Air Marshals in the last three weeks, and more are planning to leave, according to two sources close to the Capitol Police.

Officers are unhappy with the leadership of the department since Chief Terrance Gainer retired in April, said one knowledgeable source, who was granted anonymity because of the sensitive nature of the situation.

“Since Gainer left, the department is going backwards,” the source said. “Morale is the lowest I have ever seen it.”

In an interview, Gainer expressed empathy for the officers but attributed the morale to the natural transition that occurs when leadership changes hands.

“I heard the troops were a bit demoralized … whenever you change chiefs there is a question of where the department is going,” he said.  “But [the Capitol Police Board] has some great applicants and [the officers] will settle into a new routine.”

Gainer retired earlier this year amid accusations of nepotism.

Another source said officers are finding other opportunities more enticing because of additional benefits they would receive elsewhere.

“Members of the police force have found that there are few perks to staying on with the department,” the source said. 

Budget cuts, a moratorium on many police-training programs and overall job dissatisfaction also have contributed to the loss of staff.

A Capitol Police spokeswoman declined to comment on the matter, citing a department policy against disclosing personnel matters. 

In the Capitol Police’s 2007 budget request to the House and Senate Appropriations committee, the force requested funding for 63 additional officers and supervisors. That number was pared down to 30 in the House report on the bill.

In June, there were 1,658 sworn full-time employees working for the Capitol Police, according to the House report.

The Capitol Police are currently reviewing the security procedures to determine specifically what failures contributed to a security breach Monday when an armed man entered the Capitol after crashing his car outside.  Shortly before 8 a.m. Carlos Greene, 20, was able to penetrate Capitol Police security, run into the Capitol and lead police on a chase through four floors until he was apprehended on a lower floor of the Capitol building.

Acting Chief Christopher McGaffin told reporters Monday that the incident was unacceptable and pledged that the department would conduct a thorough investigation.

McGaffin told reporters that although the suspect penetrated the Capitol building, the police knew where he was at all times in the building through surveillance footage.

Several sources disputed McGaffin’s assertion yesterday that the police had Greene on camera every second he was in the building.

“That’s just not true,” said one source familiar with the contents of the tape.

“If he had been a suicide bomber, people could have died and we could have lost an entire floor of the Senate wing,” the source said. 

A Capitol police spokeswoman declined to comment.

“Carlos Greene is part of our investigation and therefore can’t be discussed,” said Sergeant Kimberly Schneider, a spokesman for the police.

Gainer agreed yesterday that there were several failures, describing the incident as intolerable.

“There was a failure some place, whether it was proper staffing at a door or proper positioning of a vehicle … you can’t let this go on,” he said. “You have to be sharp every minute of every day … you can’t let any of these activities become routine.”

After speaking to several members of the force Monday, Gainer said that everyone from the top down, including himself, was disappointed.

“Everyone is disappointed in themselves  — no one likes something like this to happen,” he said.