As part of their biannual weapons qualification, Capitol Police will receive new weapons safety training to reinforce proper handling, i.e., what to do with your gun when you go to the potty, Chief Kim C. Dine told lawmakers Wednesday.
Leaving a gun unattended around the Capitol currently warrants five days of suspension without pay, but Dine and newly appointed Assistant Chief Matthew R. Verderosa, are considering increasing the punishment to a 30-day suspension — or even termination — following the May 1 report of three such incidents . “I would venture common sense will prevail and no officer will ever leave a firearm in a toilet-cover dispenser again in the Capitol complex,” Rep. Rodney Davis, R-Ill., told Dine during the nearly 90-minute House Administration Committee hearing. The chief was the lone witness.
“Hopefully, you didn’t have to put a specific provision into your training manual about not leaving firearms in toilet-paper, or toilet-cover dispensers,” Davis continued. “But that’s a reaction. What is the Capitol Police doing to be more proactive?”
Questions from the seven members of the committee who attended the hearing — six Republicans and three Democrats are on the panel — focused on the April 15 landing of a gyrocopter on the West Front by Douglas Hughes (who was coincidentally indicted Wednesday on six charges related to the incident), and the Roll Call report of three instances in which officers left guns unattended around the Capitol. One was allegedly found by a child as young as 7, who was visiting Speaker John A. Boehner with his parents.
Pressed on whether that officer, and a member of Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell’s detail who allegedly left a gun unattended, had been removed from their positions, Dine answered, “They haven’t been yet.” He said reassigning the officers is “certainly something we are looking at.”
Neither of the GOP leaders was briefed on the incidents after they occurred — another fact Dine was pressed about.
“He danced around a lot of questions, you know, till you pressed him on it,” Rep. Rich Nugent, R-Fla., said in an interview after the hearing. Nugent, a former sheriff, believes the officers should have immediately been removed from those sensitive positions. “I think that’s the first thing that should have happened,” he said.
“My whole point to them is, that length of time to do discipline and then failing to remove them, it just causes problems for your rank and file because they don’t know what’s appropriate and what isn’t appropriate,” Nugent said. “They all know that leaving your [gun] unattended is a giant no-no.”
The committee wants to see more of Dine. Many members lamented having never before met the chief, who has been on the job since December 2012. Wednesday marked his first time being called to testify.
“We need to be sure that we are not an afterthought in the process of managing the department,” said Rep. Robert A. Brady, D-Pa., the top Democrat on the committee. When something happens affecting public security, “run — don’t walk — to this committee,” Brady instructed.
Dine apologized, and told lawmakers at least a half-dozen times that he, too, wanted a better relationship. Dine also said he had “no excuses” for the three incidents when officers left their guns unattended.
“As far as any kind of discipline … that is totally up to the chief of police,” Chairwoman Candice S. Miller , R-Mich., said after the hearing. She also pressed the chief on whether the officers had been removed from the protective details.
“That’s unacceptable. You cannot be leaving your weapon in the bathroom, or any kind of public place,” she continued. “Obviously everybody agrees with that, but it’s happened more than once — that we’ve heard about, so there is a lot of concern. It’s one of the reasons, really, that we had this hearing.”
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