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Brady Pushes Merger One Step Further

The planned unification of the Capitol Police and Library of Congress Police took a step forward last week when House Administration Chairman Robert Brady (D-Pa.) introduced legislation to implement the merger.

Under the measure introduced Thursday, all LOC officers would be eligible to join the Capitol Police in some capacity. Those who do not meet certain age, tenure and physical requirements would become civilian employees rather than full-time officers.

Brady’s bill is similar to language introduced in the Senate earlier this year by Sen. Mary Landrieu (D-La.). But unlike Landrieu’s plan — which would begin the transfer in October 2008 — officers could begin moving over to the Capitol Police as soon as they are deemed eligible.

Moving forward with the merger is key to ensuring that officers on Capitol Hill will be able to protect Members, staff and visitors, Brady spokesman Kyle Anderson said Friday.

“There’s a commitment to ensuring that the force is equipped and positioned to do the things it needs to do,” Anderson said.

House Administration ranking member Vernon Ehlers (R-Mich.) signed on as a co-sponsor to the measure, which was introduced four years after the merger itself was approved.

“We’re obviously supportive,” Ehlers spokeswoman Salley Collins said. “We believe this is a coordinated effort that will not affect the core mission of each agency.”

Michael Hutchins, who heads the LOC police union, could not be reached for comment Friday. But in an e-mail sent to Roll Call, Hutchins said he and his colleagues remain upset that merger plans do not ensure a dual retirement system in which officers who wish to maintain their current plans can, something they have long sought.

“If a dual system for retirement cannot be provided for in the United States Capitol Police, which is the only way all LOC Police can become members of the USCP, then we oppose the transition phase yesterday, today, and tomorrow,” Hutchins wrote.

If enacted, the legislation would require transferees who remain in the officer ranks to adopt the Capitol Police retirement plan.

However, the Capitol Police mandatory retirement age of 57 would not apply to LOC transferees serving as police unless they are eligible to retire under their current plan. If not, officers must retire as soon as they are eligible, not later than age 60.

The same requirements were put forth in the Senate version of the merger, which now sits in limbo until the legislative branch appropriations bill becomes law.

And it is language the LOC police union continues to take issue with.

“Contrary to popular belief, the men and women of the LOC Police Department are professional police officers, and are not washed up because of age or tenure,” Hutchins wrote. “The majority of the entire federal government police forces have non police retirement systems, which dictates officers staying employed into their 60s and 70s.”

Capitol Police spokeswoman Sgt. Kimberly Schneider declined to talk about the bill on Friday, saying the department does not comment on pending legislation.

Under the measure, the Capitol Police officially would oversee Library facilities on Capitol Hill, along with the National Audio-Visual Conservation Center in Culpeper, Va., starting Oct. 1, 2009.

Although protecting Library property is similar to protecting the rest of the Capitol complex, the LOC also has a unique concern: making sure its priceless collections are not damaged or stolen.

To address this, the plan would require the Librarian of Congress to establish standards and regulations for the security, control and preservation of the LOC’s collections and property. The Librarian and Capitol Police chief would share responsibility for the operation of security systems at the Library, although the Librarian would be primarily responsible for the design of those systems.

The Capitol Police and LOC would need to submit their framework for carrying out those security plans to the appropriate oversight and appropriations committees by Oct. 1, 2008.

The measure also seeks to protect the status of LOC cops, stipulating that any officer who transfers to the Capitol Police cannot lose basic pay, rank or grade. Leave and compensatory time also would be protected under the measure.

A seniority and probationary period is not addressed in the measure, and instead is treated as a bargaining unit matter. The Library’s bargaining agreement with the Fraternal Order of Police would not apply to transferred employees.

Any grievances filed before the transfer will expire upon the transfer, unless a hearing has begun. If not, transferees can refile grievances.

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