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GAO Report Unenthusiastic About Revamping Capitol Police Benefits

Though the Government Accountability Office has all but shut down the Capitol Police Labor Committee’s suggestions for restructuring officers’ benefits, the union chairman is not ready to end the conversation.

“We see this as a stepping stone,” Chairman Jim Konczos said.

The GAO released a report this week that found zero-to-minimal savings in the six suggestions the union put forth in 2010 to improve the Capitol Police benefit structure.

Any of these six proposals, the union said at the time, could address “disparities in pay and retirement benefits [that could] have caused their police forces to experience difficulties in recruiting and retaining officers.”

In its report, however, GAO found that five of the recommendations would cost the government money.

The final recommendation, which would allow officers to voluntarily stay on the force until age 60 rather than 57, would “have only a minimal impact on USCP costs” and could “significantly increase retirement incomes.”

The Office of Personnel Management, in its written response to the report, wrote that such a move would be generally unnecessary, yielding “little or no pension cost savings expected to be realized directly by the USCP.”

Though the GAO is a nonpartisan agency that does not take policy positions, its analysis would appear to back OPM’s stance that it does not need to make changes to retirement benefits. The report finds that the Capitol Police has the fourth lowest attrition rate among the nine federal police forces to which it was compared.

“The USCP generally has enhanced retirement benefits, a higher minimum starting salary and a wider variety of protective duties than other federal police forces in the D.C. metro area … allow[ing] their officers to retire early and accrue retirement pensions faster than other federal police forces,” the report reads.

Konczos rejects OPM’s take.

“I’ll be honest: I think it’s reckless for OPM to come back and say ‘the savings would be minimal,’” Konczos told Roll Call. “In these economic times, any saving would be a good thing.”

The report could be a blow to chances to institute new policies to boost recruiting and retention — and help current Capitol Police officers — but Konczos said he hopes to continue working with lawmakers to pursue legislation that could address those issues in spite of the GAO’s findings. He singled out Reps. Michael Capuano (D-Mass.) and Robert Brady (D-Pa.), who initially requested the GAO report.

“We’re going to follow their lead,” Konczos said.

Brady and Capuano said they will be looking into their options.

“We are reviewing the GAO report now,” they said in a joint statement to Roll Call. “The equitable treatment of the U.S. Capitol Police and all federal law enforcement officers is a top priority for [us. We are] open to these and other ideas for attracting and retaining the best officers we can in these tough fiscal times.”

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