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Library Agrees to Capitol Police Control of Officers

Marking the first step in a long-discussed merger, the Capitol Police are preparing to take effective control of the Library of Congress’ law enforcement arm, under an agreement reached by officials at both departments last week.

According to a memorandum of understanding that officials spent nearly eight months negotiating, the Capitol Police will assign a “command official” to the Library to “command, direct, supervise operations and personnel of the LOC police.”

While the Librarian of Congress will maintain ultimate control over the agency, including budgetary authority, the Capitol Police-assigned post will control day-to-day operations.

“The USCP official will be under the authority of the Library,” an LOC spokeswoman said. According to the memorandum, the police official will also report to the Capitol Police’s Uniformed Services Bureau Deputy Chief Larry Thompson.

Capitol Police Chief Terrance Gainer was unavailable for comment prior to the Thanksgiving holiday and a department spokesman declined to comment.

The five-page memorandum also regulates the assignment of nearly two-dozen Capitol Police officers to the Library, which is currently faced with a severe shortage of officers.

The Library’s police force has operated under a Congressionally mandated hiring moratorium for nearly a year, during which time the agency’s numbers have shrunk to approximately 100 officers, two-thirds of the number it is authorized to employ.

That reduction — which Librarian of Congress James Billington described earlier this year as a “devastating gap in our manpower” — has led the Library’s law enforcement staff to struggle with basic needs, such as having enough officers on hand to monitor entrances.

“Librarian of Congress James Billington is grateful to the chairmen of the Senate Rules and House Administration committees for their assistance in finalizing the MOU and providing necessary enhancements to the Library’s police force so that seamless security on Capitol Hill may be maintained,” LOC spokeswoman Helen Dalrymple said Tuesday in a written statement.

LOC Police Labor Committee Chairman Mark Timberlake similarly praised the new agreement — which appears in stark contrast to an earlier proposal put forth by LOC officials that would have brought Capitol Police officers assigned to the Library largely under that department’s control — and said he hopes to see the merger move forward.

“We’re very excited and very appreciative of all the hard work from Congressman Ney’s office and the rest of Congress and the Capitol Police Board and the Library,” Timberlake said. “This will hopefully get the ball rolling to complete this [merger] process.”

House Administration Chairman Bob Ney (R-Ohio), whose panel has oversight of the Capitol Police, said discussions about the merger will continue in the 109th Congress.

“The MOU reached between the Capitol Police and the Library of Congress was a very important and needed step in the effort to maintain an appropriate level of security at the Library, and I’m pleased that all involved parties were able to work cooperatively on this matter,” Ney said in a statement. “In the weeks and months ahead, we will continue to work together on a permanent solution that meets the security and personnel priorities of both sides.”

Although appropriators mandated the merger — which would combine the Library’s security operation with the 1,600-officer Capitol Police — in the fiscal 2003 omnibus appropriations bill, the process has faced delays as lawmakers sought more time to review the overall proposal, asserting authorizers were not given time to do so before the bill’s passage.

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