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New York Shooting Could Influence Capitol Police Review of Screening Policy

Capitol Police officials may step up an already-underway review of their security screening policies following the Wednesday shooting death of a New York City councilman.

According to news reports, Councilman James Davis (D) of Brooklyn was allegedly shot by Othniel Askew, who had filed papers to oppose Davis in an upcoming Democratic primary, in New York’s City Hall.

New York City councilmembers, as well as the mayor, are allowed to bypass security checkpoints in City Hall, and police often allow councilmembers’ guests to skip magnetometer screenings. Askew was apparently able to avoid screening and enter the building with a gun because Davis accompanied him.

The incident could raise questions about security procedures in the Capitol complex, where Members, who are not required to pass through checkpoints, are allowed to usher their guests around screening facilities. All other visitors to the Capitol, as well as Congressional staff, are required to pass through magnetometers, and are also subject to hand-searches or X-ray screening of personal belongings.

“Our Police Board was reviewing our policies pertaining to the magnetometer and screening of guests prior to the New York City shooting,” Assistant Police Chief Robert Howe said in a statement. “It’s our practice to put [Members’] guests through security screening, but if the Member insisted, we always accommodate it.”

A Capitol Police spokeswoman said a timeline for completion of the review was not available, but added that “due to current events, we will intensify our policy, as far as considering making changes.”

If the Capitol Police Board determines that changes are necessary following its review, it does not need to seek Congressional approval, the spokeswoman said. The Police Board is comprised of Senate Sergeant-at-Arms Bill Pickle, House Sergeant-at-Arms Bill Livingood, Architect of the Capitol Alan Hantman and Capitol Police Chief Terrance Gainer.

The Senate began screening its own staffers in 1990, and the House Sergeant-at-Arms implemented similar requirements two years later.

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