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Capitol Police creating center to tackle lawmaker protection

Chief set to tell House panel at a hearing Thursday on how D.C. crime affects Capitol operations

Capitol Police Chief J. Thomas Manger prepares to testify last year on Capitol Hill.
Capitol Police Chief J. Thomas Manger prepares to testify last year on Capitol Hill. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)

The Capitol Police has started a new initiative to better protect members of Congress, Chief J. Thomas Manger plans to tell House lawmakers at a hearing Thursday about how District of Columbia crime is affecting congressional operations.

The department is in the process of constructing what it calls a Protective Intelligence Operations Center to consolidate those efforts, Manger said in prepared testimony before the House Administration Committee.

The initiative will create a command center for the department’s Protective Services Bureau that will intake reports of threats against members, monitor residential security for lawmakers in leadership and analyze intelligence.

“This will be a critical law enforcement tool in keeping you safe,” Manger said in the testimony.

The new center will involve law enforcement coordination efforts, dignitary protection detail tracking and air operations monitoring, Manger said.

Members of Congress have been assaulted and carjacked and a staffer has been stabbed in the district. Rep. Bryan Steil, R-Wis., the committee chairman, last year hosted a security briefing to give staff and lawmakers tips on surviving crime in Washington.

As part of the panel’s Thursday hearing on “Safety on Capitol Hill: DC Crime’s Impact on Congressional Operations and Visitors,” the panel asked Manger, the head of the Metropolitan Police Department union and an outside analyst to testify about the issues and ways to improve.

Steil, in an emailed statement about the hearing, called D.C. crime “out of control” and said he is committed to ensuring the Capitol and surrounding area “is safe for every visitor and staffer.”

“Rising crime in our nation’s capital, particularly near the Capitol complex, has constrained resources for US Capitol Police and the Sergeant at Arms,” Steil said.

Skyrocketing crime rates in Washington are worrying residents, driving officers away from the MPD and even propelled a movement to recall Charles Allen, a D.C. councilmember for Ward 6, where the Capitol complex is located.

Homicides overall in D.C. for 2023 jumped 35 percent, violent crime rose 39 percent, car thefts climbed 82 percent and overall crime went up 26 percent, according to the Metropolitan Police Department.

In his prepared testimony, Manger rattled through the many instances of crime striking members, their families and staff, including when Rep. Angie Craig, D-Minn., was assaulted in her D.C. apartment building and when Paul Pelosi was attacked with a hammer in the San Francisco home he shares with his wife, former Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif.

He also lists several times the department stopped criminals on the Capitol grounds carrying weapons from guns to machetes.

Greggory Pemberton, the head of the MPD union, said in prepared testimony that his department has lost over 1,400 officers since 2020 and almost 40 percent of those moves were resignations for a force that now has more than 500 vacancies.

Further, he described crime statistics in 2023 as “staggering.” Pemberton also alluded to portions of Allen’s district, Ward 6, as resembling “warzones.”

“The District’s Ward 6, which encompasses the Capitol, Downtown, Navy Yard, Eastern Market, Barrack’s Row, and Capitol Hill, experienced a 188% increase in homicides, a 66% increase in robberies, a 42% increase in sex assaults, a 57% increase in carjackings, and a 44% increase in violent crime,” Pemberton wrote in prepared testimony.

“As the threat landscape changes, the Department is adapting to this changing threat landscape. Member expectations with regard to their safety, as well as the safety and security of their family, has also changed. Keeping you and your families safe is my paramount objective,” Manger said.

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