First Branch Forecast

US Capitol Police Fails to Comply with Pre- and Post-January 6 Congressional Directives to Reform and GAO Recommendations on Security Preparedness and Training

Demand Progress Education Fund Releases New Report Card and Recommendations

A new report by Demand Progress Education Fund found that the US Capitol Police (USCP) has either failed to comply with or has slow-walked implementing several reform directives from Congress and recommendations by the Government Accountability Office (GAO), all aimed at improving the agency’s accountability. Demand Progress Education Fund published its analysis, Capitol Alert: Assessing the US Capitol Police’s Compliance with Congressional Calls for Accountability as the Senate Committee on Rules and Administration and the House Committee on House Administration are preparing for the first joint hearing examining the US Capitol Police Board since the 1940s. 

“The January 6 attack on the US Capitol tragically demonstrated the urgent need to modernize the US Capitol Police and improve its emergency preparedness, information sharing, and oversight,” said Taylor J. Swift, senior policy advisor at Demand Progress and author of the report. “Capitol Police leadership has kept us in the dark on how they plan to comply with numerous accountability directives from Congress and recommendations from the Government Accountability Office. Given the Capitol Police’s critical role to protect the US Capitol and all who work and visit there, we identified areas where it has made progress and where it has fallen short to help the USCP improve itself and adapt to new threats.”

The Capitol Alert report examines the US Capitol Police and its Board’s structure and disclosure practices, and also assesses whether the USCP has complied with nine congressional directives to the Capitol Police to reform its practices issued between FY 2019-2023 and 11 reform recommendations issued by the Government Accountability Office (GAO) during that same period of time.

Click to download report

Overall we found full and timely compliance with three directives from Appropriators, full but belated compliance with two directives, and non-compliance and/or unclear compliance with four directives. Specifically, a breakdown of the directives is as follows:

  • Creating a FOIA-like Process for USCP Records – Failed to Comply
  • Capitol Police Inspector General Reports Public Availability – Failed to Comply
  • Capitol Police Arrest Records as Data – Compliant but Late
  • USCP Public Information Office and Social Media – Compliant but Late
  • Capitol Police Employee Overtime, Wellness, and Mental Health – Fully Compliant
  • Risk-Based Protection for Members of Congress – Fully Compliant
  • Diversity and Diversity Training – Fully Compliant
  • Body-Worn Camera Pilot Program – Unknown (no public information)
  • Combating Bias in the Workforce – Unknown (no public information)

Furthermore, the USCP has been slow to adhere to GAO guidance around issues including corporate governance, emergency preparedness, information sharing, and personnel training. The GAO made 11 recommendations — three to the USCP and eight to the USCP Board. To date, the USCP and the USCP Board have only closed 2/11 or 18% of the GAO recommendations — the USCP has closed zero of the three recommendations while the USCP Board has closed two of the eight recommendations. There likely are older recommendations from the GAO that have not been closed.

“We urge the Capitol Police to comply with the calls to strengthen its transparency and for Congress to enforce its oversight authority so it can verify the agency responsible for keeping it secure is prepared and spending its taxpayer funds wisely,” said Swift. “At a minimum, Congress should set a deadline for the Capitol Police to create a disclosure regime in the spirit of the Freedom of Information Act.”

To expedite improved accountability and compliance with requests by Congress and the GAO, Demand Progress Education Fund issued the following recommendations:

  • Create a FOIA-like process for the public to request information from the USCP, including regulations that govern the process, clearly stated timeframes by which the requests should be answered, public disclosure of the responses, and a mechanism to appeal denials of requests.
  • Release USCP Inspector General reports to the maximum extent possible and publish a list of all USCP IG reports.
  • Make the USCP Inspector General fully independent from the USCP Board and USCP Chief and have oversight over all aspects of behavior of the USCP, including its Board.
  • Make public the proceedings of the Capitol Police Board; currently the USCP Board does not hold public meetings or release summaries of internal stakeholder meetings. 
  • Create an independent USCP Oversight Board (akin to a civilian oversight board) with representatives from the various stakeholders that oversee and comment upon the operations of the USCP and its Board.
  • Empower congressional committees by appropriating funds for them to hire permanent staff who are deeply experienced with policing and are funded through Capitol Police appropriations.
  • Highlight how the public may file complaints concerning the USCP and protect whistleblowers concerning USCP practices.
  • Reinforce public-facing efforts by the USCP public information office to contemporaneously inform the public regarding its activities.
  • Publish accurate and complete arrest records that include demographic data of the individuals arrested and sufficient location details. Include information arrests conducted by partner agencies. Include information about whether the arrests lead to prosecution and conviction.
  • Publish the FY 2021 Combatting Bias report on the USCP website.
  • Publish regular updates regarding the department’s activities to promote workforce diversity, including partnering with organizations that focus on developing opportunities for minorities and women.
  • Publish more specific information regarding department complaints and lawsuits.
  • Reform the USCP Board and change its composition.
  • Close the remaining GAO recommendations for both the USCP and the USCP Board.
  • Fully address the directives from the congressional appropriations committees.

The size of the Capitol Police’s budget can compete with many major municipal police forces such as San Francisco, Baltimore, and Washington, DC. The department has a budget that exceeds $734.6 million for FY 2023 — constituting almost 13% of Legislative branch funding ($5.7 billion total). This number jumps to nearly 19% when including the USCP building, grounds, and security, which is housed under the Architect of the Capitol’s budget. It has benefited from a budget windfall increase of about 72% since FY 2019 (from $453 million in FY19 to a proposed $781 million for FY24).

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