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Ney: End LOC Police Hiring Freeze

House Administration Committee leaders are seeking to end a 10-month-old moratorium on the hiring of new officers for the Library of Congress police, asserting the agency needs to be able to replenish its ranks while lawmakers review a proposed merger of the LOC force and the Capitol Police.

House Administration Chairman Bob Ney (R-Ohio) said Tuesday that his panel needs additional time to review the merger — which would combine the 100-officer LOC force with the 1,600-member Capitol Police — asserting that House authorizers were not able to do so before the merger was mandated in the fiscal 2003 omnibus appropriations bill.

“It really kind of didn’t go through the normal authorization process, frankly,” Ney said. “The relevant oversight committees never really weighed in on this.”

The legislation introduced Tuesday by Ney and House Administration ranking member John Larson (D-Conn.) would strike language from the fiscal 2004 appropriations bill, which outlines initial stages of the merger, including the prohibition of the new Library officers.

Ney stressed he is “not picking a fight” with House or Senate appropriators. He later added: “While we continue to review the merger — this doesn’t mean the merger is dead — this allows the Library of Congress to do some hiring until we can finally straighten all this out.”

Under the proposed legislation, however, a plan to detail nearly two dozen Capitol Police officers to the Library would also be abandoned, the Ohio lawmaker acknowledged.

“We would prefer that the current system be maintained,” Ney said, “that the Library of Congress will hire their own to replace some of the people that have left.”

In a statement, Larson noted: “[T]his bill will accommodate the Library’s short-term need of additional law enforcement personnel. As the nation’s oldest federal cultural institution, we must do all we can to protect its collection of millions of resources.”

But a spokeswoman for Rep. Jack Kingston (R-Ga.), who chairs the Appropriations subcommittee on the legislative branch, questioned the proposal, noting that Capitol Police officers had already been trained to fill positions at the Library.

“We don’t see any need for this legislation,” said Kingston spokeswoman Jennifer Hing.

Officer Mark Timberlake, who chairs the LOC Police Labor Committee, praised the concept of adding officers but questioned the effectiveness of Ney and Larson’s proposal.

“I see the reasoning behind it because we’re so short, but I’m not sure how realistic it is,” Timberlake said. In addition to training, the hiring process alone can take up to a year to complete, Timberlake noted.

Retirements and separations have reduced the Library’s police force to about 100 officers, Timberlake said, requiring most of them to work at least one overtime shift each week, ranging between two and eight hours.

In a statement, a Library of Congress spokeswoman expressed support for the Ney-Larson legislation: “Many parties on Capitol Hill are working to achieve a seamless security environment for the protection of all. … We at the Library welcome any actions they may take that will move us toward that goal,” said the LOC’s Helen Dalrymple.

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