(CNSNews.com) – The Senate Rules Committee held a hearing Monday on challenges facing the U.S. Capitol Police amid growing threats to lawmakers.
The witness, Capitol Police Chief Tom Manger, said his agency is working in “three key areas,” which he described as “threat investigations, fully reopening the Capitol, and staffing.”
“Among the most significant challenges that we’re facing is the ever-changing threat landscape — hate, intolerance and violence are part of a disturbing trend,” Manger said in his opening statement.
“This past year, the department saw more than 9,000 threats against members of Congress,” he said, up from 1,000 in 2017.
“The attacks on Representative Lee Zeldin and Paul Pelosi as well as the threats directed towards other members of Congress are a sad reminder of the extent to which our social fabric has frayed.
“Not surprisingly, then, the bulk of the department’s current efforts are directed to threat assessment and mitigation. These efforts include an increase in the number of dignitary protection agents as well as the training of a reserve team to supplement protection advance-teams, enhanced security protections for members, their families and their homes.”
Manger said the security recommendations presented to the Capitol Police Board include “the installation of state-of-the-art residential security systems for every member of Congress,” both at their homes and in their district offices; the creation of a protection operations center; and the expansion of memorandums of understanding with local law enforcement agencies nationwide.
But Manger said it’s not enough to identify bad actors. He wants to see more of the bad actors prosecuted, even though he admitted that some threats are “difficult to prosecute.”
“It is disheartening to me that our prosecution rate remains so low. We have made significant inroads on that front by establishing three special US attorney positions assigned to the Capitol Police for the express purpose of prosecuting those threat cases.”
Manger said prosecuting threat cases “has a deterrent effect,” and he said he’s “hopeful” that the addition of the three special US attorneys will result in more cases prosecuted.
“Look, the FBI and the U. S. Attorney’s Office are very helpful, but they have a huge caseload,” Manger said. “And for us, a threat against a member of Congress is our highest priority. It’s not always their highest priority. So if we have our own folks to make sure these things get prosecuted, I think it’s a big step in the right door.”
According to Committee Chair Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.), last year, the Capitol Police referred 458 threat cases for prosecution, resulting in 40 actual prosecutions.
Another of Manger’s security plans involves a “protection operations center,” where Capitol Police employees would monitor the home and office security systems installed for members of Congress.
“They would also be monitored by the company that installed them, but to have that redundancy and to have that instant recognition if there’s a problem, and the instant response if there’s a problem, I think provides exactly what what we need in terms of enhancing the protection.”
Klobuchar said she’s now working on a bipartisan proposal to remove lawmakers’ personal information from public websites. Manger said that would be a “huge help.”
Removing personally identifiable information such as lawmakers’ addresses would make it a little more difficult for some people to fulfill their bad intentions, Manger agreed.
Manger said his agency’s “protection responsibilities will require additional resources,” and he said his “big ask” is for 64 additional special agents who would be assigned to protection details and the investigation of threats.” No dollar amount was given.
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