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Capitol Police Chief: Specialized agents must get COVID-19 vaccine or be reassigned

All Dignitary Protection Division agents who protect congressional leadership need first shot by Oct. 25

House Majority Whip Steve Scalise, R-La., escorted by U.S. Capitol Police Special Agent David Bailey, leaves the House Republican Conference meeting at the Capitol Hill Club in Washington on Wednesday morning, June 13, 2018.
House Majority Whip Steve Scalise, R-La., escorted by U.S. Capitol Police Special Agent David Bailey, leaves the House Republican Conference meeting at the Capitol Hill Club in Washington on Wednesday morning, June 13, 2018. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call file photo)

All of the Capitol Police’s specialized Dignitary Protection Division agents — those who protect members of congressional leadership — must get the COVID-19 vaccine or they will be reassigned, according to an internal department memo obtained by CQ Roll Call.

“DPD Agents who refuse to be vaccinated will be reassigned to another organizational element within the Department,” Chief J. Thomas Manger said in a directive sent Tuesday to all Dignitary Protection Division agents. The mandate extends to officers temporarily detailed to the division as well.

Those agents are some of the most visible in the department and are frequently in close proximity with members. They provide protection for Speaker Nancy Pelosi, House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy, Senate President Pro Tempore Patrick J. Leahy, Senate Majority Leader Charles E. Schumer and Mitch McConnell, the Senate’s minority leader, among others. Agents can also be assigned to members who have a high number of threats against them.

In 2017, Capitol Police Special Agents David Bailey and Crystal Griner were part of then-House Majority Whip Steve Scalise’s security detail and defended him and other lawmakers when a gunman opened fire on a GOP congressional baseball practice in Alexandria, Va. They both have been honored for their work.

Those in the Dignitary Protection Division are not part of the approximately 1,000 member Capitol Police union. Other officers are not required to obtain the COVID-19 vaccine. The department has around 1,800 sworn officers and nearly 2,300 employees in total.

It is unclear how many Capitol Police officers and Capitol Police employees are vaccinated. A Capitol Police spokesperson said they could not disclose the number of Dignitary Protection Division agents they have, citing security concerns. “The Dignitary Protection Division is the only division being required to get the vaccine, although everyone is being encouraged to get it,” the spokesperson said.

The spokesperson said it is “difficult to know how many USCP employees are fully vaccinated.” Department employees — aside from DPD agents now — need not disclose their vaccination status to the department.

All of the Dignitary Protection Division agents must get the first of a two shot COVID-19 vaccine regimen, such as Pfizer or Moderna vaccines, or a one-dose vaccine like the Johnson & Johnson vaccine, by Oct. 25. Further, agents must be “fully vaccinated” by Dec. 6, meaning they are two weeks beyond the final shot of a two dose vaccine, or two weeks past a one-dose shot. Agents are told to submit their proof of vaccination to Capitol Police’s human resources office.

The missive says officers can get their vaccine at the Office of Attending Physician and that they need not take time off to get the shot.

Manger says the mandate is to “ensure the safety of the Department’s employees and Congressional protectees.” Manger and Yogananda Pittman, assistant chief for protective and intelligence operations who oversees the agents, are both listed as sending the directive. 

If an agent is unable to receive the vaccine because of a medical condition or their religious beliefs, they are required to contact human resources.

Manger, 66, received a COVID-19 booster shot last week, he told CQ Roll Call in an interview.

Manger says in the memo that all Capitol Police department employees, including those who are vaccinated, must wear face coverings while indoors at the Capitol complex, while traveling on public transit with the people they are protecting and when social distancing is not an option.

“Agents with our Dignitary Protection Division are frequently in tight spaces with groups of people for extended periods of time,” Manger said in a statement to CQ Roll Call. “For their safety, and the safety of everyone around them, I am directing them to get the COVID-19 vaccine or they can chose to transfer to a different assignment.”

The New York Times reported over 460 U.S. law enforcement officers have died from COVID-19 infections related to their job since the outset of the pandemic, the most common form of duty-related death among U.S. police officer. But police unions have been fighting vaccine mandates.

Since March of 2020, the Capitol Police department has tracked 288 positive COVID-19 cases. Capitol Police Officer Paul Snider is in the hospital with COVID-19 and a fundraiser has been set up for his medical bills and for his children.

Chris Cioffi contributed to this report.

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