Capitol Police union warns of potential mass exodus from police department – already short hundreds of cops

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WASHINGTON, DC – Following another attack at the U.S. Capitol that claimed the life of an officer, the Capitol Police union is warning Congress of a pending manpower crisis as officers consider leaving the department en masse.

Gus Papathanasiou, chairman of the U.S. Capitol Police Labor Committee, said in a statement that the department is already struggling with a manpower crisis by operating 233 officers below its authorized level of more than 2,000.

Papathanasiou said he is concerned the attacks on January 6 and April 2 will lead to many officers fleeing the department for other agencies or by taking early retirement:

“We are struggling to meet existing mission requirements even with the officers working massive amounts of forced overtime. In the next 3-5 years, we have another 500 officers who will be eligible to retire.

“Many of these officers could put in their retirement papers tomorrow. I’ve had many younger officers confide in me that they’re actively looking at other agencies and departments right now.”

The union leader said the attack on Friday was especially hard on the officers. During the attack, one officer was killed and another injured after a man struck them while ramming a security barricade.

The driver, identified as 25-year-old Noah Green, exited the vehicle with a knife and failed to respond to officers’ verbal commands, according to Capitol Police Acting Chief Yogananda Pittman. Green was shot and killed by Capitol officers.

The officer killed in the attack has been identified as William Evans, an 18-year-veteran of the department. The injured officer, Kenny Shaver, was released from the hospital Sunday.

Papathanasiou said that Evans was “well respected within the department and his loss will not be forgotten.”

Officer Brian Sicknick was killed during the insurrection at the Capitol on January 6. Multiple other officers were injured, and some officers have committed suicide since the attack.

Papathanasiou said the Capitol police officers were “reeling”:

“We have now lost two officers in the line of duty this year. Another officer has taken his own life and we have 80 officers who were seriously injured in the insurrection. Some of those injured officers may never return to duty.”

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 Papathanasiou called on Congress to implement recommendations presented last month by the task force investigating the Jan. 6 attack, but that the priority must be officer retention.

The task force, led by retired Army Lt. Gen. Russel Honoré, presented several recommendations to Congress. During an interview with ABC News host George Stephanopoulos on April 4, Honoré said:

“We’ve given them the plan. We worked the plan hard. Now it’s time for Congress to work the plan. We gave them the plan. We worked hard to give it to them.

Now they’ve got to work to make that plan come through, and that’s called a supplemental because the police in the Capitol deserve this. Our nation deserves it. And those families who have lost loved ones deserve it. And we need to up our game in support of the Capitol Police.”

Honoré agreed with Papathanasiou that retention and recruitment were top priorities for the Capitol Police:

“They are going to have to recruit hard, and in order to recruit, they’re going to need a special budget to get someone to come and help them run — you know, we are competing against police officers for police forces all around the country, including the Capital Region.

And hiring police now is not easy, George. Maybe one in 10 get through the screening process.

“The Capitol made some adjustments. They increased their recruiting age to 40 which would allow them to take on veterans coming out of the military, as well as extending the age to 60.

All of these internal actions they were able to take. But when you are 233 officers short today, you might have a problem and that has been exacerbated last year because they did not get a police class through because of COVID.”

Honoré said that the protection of the U.S. Capitol is vital to the United States and that the financial costs need to be paid:

“That comes at — with a balance, with reengineering, with resources needed (for) the Capitol Police, with upgrading our cameras and sensors and the barriers around the Capitol. That’s going to come at a cost.

 “It is the most important building in America because it’s the seat of our democracy. If that building and the people in it don’t function, we no longer have democracy. And whatever price we have to pay to protect it, we need to do it.”

The recommendations include filling currently open positions with the Capitol Police Department, but also adding approximately 800 more officers to the department staff, a 40% increase to the force’s authorized manpower.

Capitol police officers worked about 720,000 overtime hours in the last fiscal year. The report sent to Congress said mandatory overtime created by staffing shortages were “unsustainable”:

“Not only is this model unsustainable, it leaves the force with no ability to pull officers from the line to train.”

Some other recommendations of the plan include:

– increase the USCP recruiting budget to enable better outreach and provide hiring / recruiting incentives-contract for screening initial applicants: does not require USCP officers to perform this task-expand contract polygraph examinations-consider relaxation of some standards (e.g., prior drug use, tattoo policies, etc.)-develop and employ an incentives package (college tuition payments, bonuses, etc.).

– expand the use of Federal Law Enforcement Training Center (FLETC) at Artesia, NM and\ consider the creation of a FLETC at USCP’s training facility in Cheltenham, MD.

– develop a lateral entry program that recruits from other LE agencies & create a tailored program to certify transfers; conduct direct hiring-consider creation of a USCP Reserve Corps, especially to help recruit experienced DP officers to cover the anticipated load.

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