Capitol Police Board signals resistance to reform
Lawmakers’ efforts to revamp the Capitol Police Board met resistance from some of the building’s top security officers at a House hearing on Wednesday where the Senate sergeant-at-arms declined to appear.
“No,” was the response from the House sergeant-at-arms when asked at the hearing whether the board for the Capitol’s police force should be reformed.
Following the Jan. 6 security failures, lawmakers have sought to reform the Capitol Police Board, which includes the sergeants-at-arms for both chambers along with the Architect of the Capitol (AOC).
Both the sergeants-at-arms resigned in the days after the riot, while recent investigations have found the AoC was regularly sidelined from helping the board make security decisions at the Capitol.
“The United States Capitol Police is at an inflection point. And it must transform into a protective force that is able to respond to increasing threats to this institution [and] its members that show no sign of lessening,” said House Sergeant-at-Arms William Walker, who took office in April and previously served as the D.C. National Guard chief.
Capitol Police said earlier this month that threats against lawmakers are up 107 percent since last year.
Walker has backed an effort from the committee to turn the Capitol Police into a more protective force, a pivot away from pure policing duties.
“This will require more dignitary protection agents that are specifically trained to protect members from threats throughout the country,” he said.
But he also nodded to a transition to a “TSA [Transportation Security Administration] model” where the Capitol has both security agents and officers.
“You’ll have more security officers to relieve police officers, and a police officer will be in line of sight,” he said.
However, in other moments, the two present members of the board sounded resistant to some of the reforms sought by lawmakers.
Walker wouldn’t commit to sharing the board’s meeting minutes with lawmakers. He did, however, commit to closing gaps outlined by several recent Capitol Police inspector general reports.
Architect of the Capitol Brett Blanton noted it would take agreement from the entire board in order to share its meeting minutes.
Ranking member Rodney Davis (R-Ill.) said he was “extremely disappointed” over the absence of Senate Sergeant-at-Arms Karen Gibson, adding that it “demonstrates the underlying issue with the Capitol Police Board: a lack of oversight.”