Gainer backs plea from Holmes Norton for police reinforcement on Mall

As members of Congress call for the Capitol Police to help the Park Police patrol the National Mall at night, some people might find the requests familiar. Three years ago, former Capitol Police Chief Terrance Gainer proposed that his force extend its jurisdiction to the Mall.

Gainer told The Hill yesterday that he was pleased with the proposal by Del. Eleanor Holmes Norton (D-D.C.) to put Capitol Police officers on the Mall temporarily to help the stretched Park Police combat the rising crime rate.

“It’s good for morale,” he said, explaining that officers like to help other officers solve new law-enforcement problems.

Gainer said expanding the jurisdiction would be a “two-for” because the Capitol Police could be an anti-crime force as well as an anti-terrorism force.

“It’s not a loss [to the Capitol],” Gainer said. “We are trying to keep the enemy at bay as far as we can.”

Even a small extension would make a big difference in the force’s crime- and terrorism-fighting abilities, he said.

Congress turned down his proposal to expand the scope of the Capitol Police three years ago because lawmakers and staff thought it would weaken the force around the Capitol, Gainer explained.

The Capitol Police are allowed to operate outside their jurisdiction under extenuating circumstances, such as if they are dealing with violence and life is in danger.

Reps. Jack Kingston (R-Ga.) and Jim Moran (D-Va.) opposed an expansion in 2003, when they led the now-defunct House Legislative Branch Committee as chairman and ranking member, respectively. Moran and Kingston could not be reached for comment.

Gainer added that he wished the Capitol Police force still had its mounted patrol, funding for which was cut from the 2006 budget. “This would have been the perfect use of that unit,” he said.

Gainer retired as chief in April after allegations of nepotism.

Talks between the two police departments have taken place since Norton announced her proposal last week.

Sgt. Kimberly Schneider, a Capitol Police spokeswoman, said, “The Park Police have not formally asked us for help in patrolling the Mall area, but what they have agreed to do is share with us their analysis of their resources and needs. Once we’ve looked at that and studied it, we can make some decisions on how we can best be of assistance to them.”

The Capitol Police have already allowed the use of their booking facility by the Park Police.

A spokesman for the Park Police did not return calls for comment.

According to Norton, who requested the report from the Park Police, the document will provide the Capitol Police officers with instructions about their role helping secure the Mall, which has seen a sudden increase in crime this summer.

The Capitol Police had not received a report from the Park Police yesterday.

The Park Police also failed to provide Norton with a report yesterday, according to Doxie McCoy, a spokeswoman for Norton.

McCoy said yesterday, “Ms. Norton says it should have been delivered today, but we expect it will come through tomorrow.”

Norton said the Park Police are stretched and having difficulty meeting the challenges posed by the Mall attacks. She has spoken to the Speaker’s office and been told that it would back an effort to help the Park Police.

During a tour of the Mall beginning at dusk Monday, Norton expressed concern about the lack of lighting, citing the area between the World War II Memorial and the Lincoln Memorial.

“It’s totally black,” she said.

Standing in the dark night near the Washington Monument, Norton said that it is Congress’s responsibility to protect people on the Mall and that it’s unwise to regard crime as a local issue.

“This is federal property,” she said. “Everybody who has been mugged has been from out of town. These people are their constituents.”

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