After touching a nerve with national and local police union officials for statements he made to the Richmond Times-Dispatch over the weekend, Sen. Jim Webb (D-Va.) said Monday that he never meant to imply that Members are vulnerable to attack when they are on Capitol Hill. [IMGCAP(1)]
In March, Webb aide Phillip Thompson was arrested for carrying a gun into the Russell Senate Office Building. Thompson, who told police that the gun belonged to the Senator, was charged with carrying a pistol without a license, but a federal prosecutor later dropped that charge.
After previously declining to say whether he did in fact own the weapon, Webb said in the Times-Dispatch story that the gun was his.
In explaining why he refused to confirm at the time whether he owned the gun, Webb told the Times-Dispatch that “it was a matter under legal consideration, and I was precluded from saying anything. And I hope you’ll understand that in matters of self-defense up here, it doesn’t do anybody’s safety a lot of good by talking about this stuff. We’re pretty vulnerable up here.”
Police union officials took exception to Webb’s statement Monday.
“It’s unfortunate that Senator Webb feels vulnerable on Capitol Hill when we have such a highly trained and professional police department,” Capitol Police Labor Committee Chairman Andy Maybo, an officer in the department’s K-9 division, said. “He and every Member of Congress should realize that my officers are some of the best in the country for what we do.”
Jim Pasco, executive director of the National Fraternal Order of Police, was also irked by the statement.
“I have a modest proposal for Senator Webb,” Pasco said on Monday. “The only thing in which he has less experience than politics is public safety. And he might do well to focus on his Senatorial duties and leave the public safety to the professionals.”
Jessica Smith, a spokeswoman for Webb, said Monday afternoon that her boss “has nothing but praise for the officers on Capitol Hill and he’s never once commented on a lack of security on the Capitol grounds.”
— John McArdle