Capitol Police officers will soon get enhanced weapons-safety training and a very specific reminder: Don't leave your gun in the bathroom.
Capitol Police Chief Kim Dine said at a House Administration Committee hearing Wednesday that the department is beefing up its biannual training, both in-person during weapon re-qualifications and also online. The change comes in the wake of at least two embarrassing incidents in which officers left their guns in Capitol bathrooms; in one case, the weapon was found by a child who was visiting House Speaker John Boehner's suite.
There are "no excuses" for such mistakes, Dine said. "We take these incidents very seriously, and we will rely on our disciplinary process to provide the framework for accountability." He also made clear that "we are now providing additional training on what to do when you have to go to the bathroom."
House Administration Chairwoman Candice Miller made clear that members were not pleased. "These are very serious breaches that I think alarm all of us," she said in her opening statement.
Wednesday's hearing comes on the heels of several incidents that have caused lawmakers to confront the department with tough questions, such as why the full congressional community wasn't immediately notified when a gyrocopter landed on the Capitol's West Front lawn last month.
After the gyrocopter landing, lawmakers had private meetings with Dine. But this is the first public hearing the committee overseeing House security has held since the April 15 incident.
Rep. Gregg Harper questioned Dine about when he was personally notified of the incident. "I don't believe I was notified before it landed," Dine said.
Capitol Police also came under fire earlier this year when Sen. John McCain criticized officers' slow response to ejecting protesters from a contentious Senate Armed Services Committee hearing in late January. And during President Obama's State of the Union address in January, superiors allegedly ordered officers not to arrest a man involved in a high-speed Capitol Hill car chase, Roll Call reported.
Several committee members said they were interested to hear Dine—who has been chief since December 2012 — explain how the Capitol Police department planned to move forward after these incidents. Rep. Richard Nugent said it's important that police officers feel valued. "We want to make sure their morale is high, and that they want to stay here," Nugent said at the beginning of the hearing.
And Rep. Robert Brady, the panel's top Democrat, said he wants to get to know Dine better, as he's barely met him before. "We want to be helpful to you," Brady said. "I really wish you would take that into consideration."
This article is from the archive of our partner National Journal.
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