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Unions Call on Congress to Boost Police Funding

Police union officials are criticizing a spending bill approved by House lawmakers last week, asserting it underfunds the Capitol Police and could potentially cripple security efforts across the Congressional complex.

In separate letters issued to the leadership of the House and Senate Appropriations panels, both the National Fraternal Order of Police and its Capitol Police affiliate disparaged the House version of the legislative branch spending bill, claiming it does not provide sufficient funds for the law enforcement agency to continue carrying out its security mission.

Under the House legislation, approved by the chamber last week, the Capitol Police would receive $240 million in fiscal 2006, a decrease from its current $241 million budget and significantly less than the $290 million the department had requested.

“If allowed to stand, the funding level approved by House Appropriations will force the agency to make some undesirable choices which will negatively impact the future security of the Capitol complex,” wrote FOP National President Chuck Canterbury, who noted that he will work to ensure “full funding” for the department.

Specifically, Canterbury criticized the House panel for designating $210 million for Capitol Police salaries, less than the $230 million the agency had sought.

“While this amount is greater than that appropriated in FY 2005, it fails to fully recognize the critical needs of the police force in this time of heightened security concerns, and the unique missions which the USCP is asked to undertake to protect the Congress,” Canterbury wrote. The funds mark an $8 million increase over the current fiscal year.

Canterbury likewise questioned the House panel’s decision to provide the agency with $29 million for general expenses, less than half of the $60 million the department sought in its initial budget request, asserting the funds are needed for maintaining “physical security” as well as communications systems.

(The FOP official also cited the need for additional funds for “escape hoods” — emergency masks stored throughout the Capitol complex for use in toxic or biological emergencies — although the Capitol Police received $8.4 million for that equipment in the fiscal 2005 supplemental.)

Capitol Police Labor Committee Chairman Andy Maybo, an officer in the K-9 division, echoed those concerns in a separate letter.

“[T]hese cuts will reduce our ability to secure and protect the Capitol campus,” Maybo wrote. “I believe they will degrade the delivery of services necessary to provide the level of protection that our citizens deserve.”

Both officials also condemned the House bill because it would eliminate funding for the department’s mounted unit and transfer the agency’s five horses and related equipment to the U.S. Park Police, which maintains its own equestrian division.

House Appropriations Committee spokesman John Scofield said the panel did receive a copy of the letters, but he declined to comment specifically on the correspondence.

“If the chief has concerns, our door is open,” Scofield said, referring to Capitol Police Chief Terrance Gainer. “We’re not going to debate the bill in the press.”

A Capitol Police spokesman similarly declined to comment on the letters, citing department policy on pending legislation.

In their letters, both Canterbury and Maybo also criticized House lawmakers for language in that chamber’s appropriations bill that would create tighter Congressional controls over the law enforcement agency.

Under the House bill, a new Office of Inspector General for the Capitol Police would be established, and the senior members of the department would also be subject to financial disclosure laws under the Ethics in Government Act.

Maybo questioned the provisions, stating that the department is already subject to review by its own Internal Affairs Division and Capitol Police Board, as well as House and Senate oversight panels, the Government Accountability Office and the Office of Compliance.

Similarly, Canterbury wrote: “This unwarranted questioning of the integrity of Capitol Police officers and employees does a disservice to the brave men and women who fill its ranks, and to the Congress as a whole; and it must not be allowed to stand.”

Although he declined to otherwise comment on the letters, Scofield noted that both provisions are intended to bring the Capitol Police into compliance with federal laws already applied to other legislative branch agencies.

Neither letter addressed the Senate’s version of the legislative branch bill, approved by the full committee Thursday and expected to reach the floor for a vote this week. That bill would provide the agency slightly more — $264.6 million — in fiscal 2006.

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