The stern letter Mayor Vincent Gray sent to the Secret Service following a series of early March street closures earned the city’s law enforcement leaders a sit-down with the agency.
About two weeks after detours related to Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s visit to Washington, D.C., jammed traffic on the lower end of 14th Street NW, Secret Service Director Julia A. Pierson met with Paul A. Quander Jr., who is D.C.’s deputy mayor for public safety, and Metropolitan Police Chief Cathy Lanier.
“We had a productive meeting with the Secret Service,” Quander said in an email to CQ Roll Call. But Quander and other officials were coy about the content of the chat, and what steps would be taken to prevent future dignitary-motorcade-caused fiascos. Netanyahu’s stay at the Willard Hotel during his visit for the annual conference of the American Israel Public Affairs Committee led to prolonged closure of southbound lanes on 14th Street, trapping some drivers in traffic jams for up to two hours.
“I am not going to discuss the details,” Quander said.
In his letter, Gray requested a review of planning protocols for state visits and other safety operations, saying he knew the White House’s guest house was closed for renovation but couldn’t understand why the Secret Service insisted on housing dignitaries in the downtown hotel. While Washingtonians are used to maneuvering around motorcades whenever the president, members of the Cabinet or other important officials travel through the city, Gray was irate about three days of gridlock, saying “to treat the District with such disrespect is simply unacceptable.”
Gray spokesman Pedro Ribeiro confirmed the Secret Service has pledged to work with the city moving forward to “mitigate the impact.”
Brian Leary, a spokesman for the Secret Service, also provided minimal details.
“The Secret Service has a long history of close cooperation with the Metropolitan Police Department and the Mayor’s office in preparing for protective operations in the District of Columbia,” he said in an email. “This includes National Special Security Events, daily movements by our protectees, and visits by foreign dignitaries. We value this relationship and look forward to continued coordination.”
For years, Del. Eleanor Holmes Norton, D.C., has raised concerns about how security measures around the city proliferated in the wake of 9/11 with little regard for their effects on the public. Norton wants to establish a presidential commission to investigate the balance of openness and security, but the effort has gained no traction in Congress.