The Capitol Police, a branch of law enforcement with jurisdiction in Washington D.C. and more specifically on capitol grounds, is now expanding to include regional offices throughout the country. Is this legal? It is quite unclear. What is clear is the blatant attempt by Democrats to expand their power beyond the legislative branch and into the realm of federal law enforcement.
According to an article by the New York Times, a spokesperson for the Capitol Police said the department is planning to expand outside of Washington D.C. “beginning with the opening of field offices in California and Florida” but the plan is to open “several additional regional offices.” They claim that the Capitol Police is pivoting to become an ”intelligence based protective agency.”
Up to this point, the Capitol Police have operated within Washington D.C., and more specifically within capitol buildings and on capitol grounds within the district. Within those areas, they are the top form of law enforcement. Outside of those areas, their legal jurisdiction is unclear. The department is also not subject to the same requirements for transparency as federal agencies and is therefore not held accountable through the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA).
What is the department’s stated reason for their expansion? Such a move would allow the department to quickly monitor and investigate threats to lawmakers. This comes after Congressional Democrats’ outcry that police agencies are in need of reform and transparency. After George Floyd, Democrats jumped at the opportunity to rant about police reform and call for police defunding. Is it possible their next move after defunding local law enforcement is to install a federal police agency with no transparency, one that is at their beck and call?
According to the Capitol Police website, the United States Capitol Police (USCP) is overseen by the Capitol Police Board and has Congressional oversight by appropriations and authorizing committees from the U.S. House of Representatives and U.S. Senate. The Capitol Police ultimately report to the House Speaker. The House at this time is controlled by the Democratic party and led by Nancy Pelosi.
Over the last year Pelosi has routinely undermined American citizens’ confidence in local police enforcement. Not only has she neglected to state her support for the police, but she recently supported the “Justice in Policing” Act, a far-reaching overhaul of policing across the country. The bill bans such things as choke holds and no-knock warrants in drug cases. So why is the House Speaker now supporting the expansion of a policing group with no transparency, one which ultimately reports to her?
As previously stated, Capitol Police are not held to the standard of the Freedom of Information Act. This happened because of a law enacted in 2004, that exempted the agency from FOIA. The FOIA covers only federal agencies, which the Capitol Police are not. According to another spokesperson for the department, “… the United States Capitol Police, as a legislative branch entity, is not an ‘agency’ as defined by 5 U.S.C. §§ 551 et seq., under the Freedom of Information Act. Therefore, the USCP is not subject to the requirements of the Freedom of Information Act.”
According to the website Roll Call, “Capitol Police are exempted from having to release to another entity any information “that relates to actions taken … in response to an emergency situation, or to any other counterterrorism and security preparedness measures” unless they determine that releasing the information will not “jeopardize the security and safety” of the Capitol complex.”
State Governors must push back strongly against the Capitol Police offices being set up in their states. As with all government overreach, once an agency or form of control is in place, it is incredibly difficult to reverse it. Right now, it is imperative that citizens and local lawmakers push back mightily against this latest infringement on human rights.