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Campus Notebook: Capitol Police Seek Funds, Sued Again

As the only agency in the legislative branch to escape cuts to its budget in fiscal 2012, the Capitol Police made the case Wednesday for an increase in fiscal 2013.

Testifying before the House Appropriations Subcommittee on the Legislative Branch, Capitol Police Chief Phillip Morse said he would like appropriators to provide $374 million next fiscal year, a 10 percent, or $34 million, bump above the current year.

The force’s 2012 budget is the same as its fiscal 2011 level, $340 million. Subcommittee Chairman Ander Crenshaw (R-Fla.) repeated warnings that no agency should expect to be spared as lawmakers scour the budget, looking for places to find savings.

Morse said his department has already taken a number of steps to live within its means. For instance, the number of on-duty officers and civilian employees currently falls below the authorized threshold, and many are operating “with only limited training.”

Certain new expenses must be funded next fiscal year that are beyond Capitol Police’s control, however, including security preparations and staffing for the 2013 presidential inauguration.

Morse said he is requesting $36.5 million in anticipation of meeting inauguration overtime pay and an additional $800,000 in general expense funding to “support security and law enforcement activities” associated with the event.

Much of Wednesday’s hearing, though, focused not on what the Capitol Police would do with its money, but how it can generally do its job better.

Subcommittee ranking member Michael Honda (D-Calif.) challenged Morse and his team to refine their evacuation and emergency plan to improve communications, especially when phone and Internet lines are overloaded and prevent calls and emails from going through.

“This is not a comment, this is a direction I want to see happen,” Honda said.

Morse’s testimony comes in advance of the full fiscal 2013 budget proposal to be unveiled Monday.

New Lawsuit Filed by Black Capitol Police Officers

Fifty-one black Capitol Police officers, civilians and employees have filed a new class-action discrimination lawsuit against the Capitol Police.

It’s the latest chapter in a decadelong legal battle waged by hundreds of black officers — former and current — charging management with a history of harassment based on race.

It began in 2001 with an Office of Compliance grievance. With now-retired Capitol Police Lt. Sharon Blackmon-Malloy as the lead plaintiff, the complaint argued that more than 200 black officers were denied promotions, retaliated against, unfairly disciplined or fired because of their race.

The original case has dragged on for years while courts have focused not on the merits of the claims but on who has legal standing to make them. Defense attorneys have spent the better part of the past decade whittling down the number of plaintiffs based on the soundness of their claims.

In the interim, 17 have died. In November, the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia granted a motion to voluntarily dismiss 19 plaintiffs who, for various reasons, wanted to withdraw from the case.

Now, a new case, also filed with the D.C. District Court, focuses on fresh allegations that plaintiffs say point to a continued pattern of discriminatory actions by senior members of the Capitol Police.

“They feel the same practices exist and that very little has been done,” said Regina Bolden-Whitaker, president of the United States Capitol Black Police Association. “We have been denied promotions to the upper ranks, we have been denied career-enhancement opportunities and [have] been subject to discrimination in a hostile work environment.”

About half of the plaintiffs in the new lawsuit were a part of the original case. All are current employees of the Capitol Police.

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