The turf is familiar even if the job is new. Dine spent 27 years in the D.C. police department, including some as an assistant chief. But he also commanded the 1st Police District, which includes the neighborhoods that adjoin the Capitol grounds.
He spent the past 10 years as a popular police chief in Frederick, where some people thought he could have become mayor if he had decided to run.
Dine instead elected to return to the District to run a force that protects — and answers to — hundreds of politicians. One of his department’s biggest challenges will be on global display Monday when President Obama begins his second term by taking the oath of office before tens of thousands of spectators.
“It’s obviously a humbling and daunting task,” Dine said of his position.
To outsiders, being a Capitol Police officer may look like pulling guard duty — standing at doors, other building entrances and barricaded roads around the Capitol, which in the aftermath of the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks has sometimes resembled a fortress.
Dine sees the force as a nimble organization that must shift between roles as urban police force, intelligence agency, anti-terror squad and protector of dignitaries. It also helps keep millions of tourists and other visitors flowing through what he called “the most famous symbol of freedom in the world.”
“We’re basically America’s police department,” he said in a recent interview in his office a block from the Senate office buildings.
Dine initially wanted to be a doctor, but he had trouble with science and math. So he immersed himself in sociology. His father, a television reporter who covered police and was a decorated veteran of World War II — he received two Purple Hearts, two Silver Stars and a Combat Infantryman’s Badge for his service in Europe — had wanted him to go to West Point.
Dine chose police work as a way of fulfilling the expectation of public service, he said. He and his wife, a former NASA scientist, and their daughters — one in college, the other about to graduate from high school — still live in Frederick.
His conversation is littered with phrases such as “customer service” and “customer base,” used in talking about the congressional and residential communities the department serves. He is aware of the crime on his doorstep, including December’s shooting death of Jason Emma, an accountant attacked in an apparent robbery outside his Capitol Hill home.
While on the D.C. police force, Dine managed mass protests and oversaw the internal affairs unit and a team set up to examine police-involved shootings. He said he’s looking forward to returning to the streets on his old beat. “I’m excited to be back here,” he said, adding that he loved his 10 years as chief in Frederick. “It’s almost like I woke up from a dream.”
The politics of Frederick are perhaps less turbulent than those in the Capitol building, but Dine nevertheless was challenged in his last job. He served under three mayors, sometimes clashing with a county sheriff whom critics accused of racial profiling in his eagerness to deport illegal immigrants. The dispute became a referendum on Frederick’s direction as it straddled its rural roots and its present as a growing, increasingly diverse Washington suburb.
Dine’s predecessor had been suspended for ordering officers to stake out the local NAACP president, who had complained that a local madam had gotten off easy with the law in order to keep her “black book” from going public and embarrassing well-known townspeople. Officials say Dine won over the black community and other groups while presiding over a reduction in crime.
When Dine interviewed for the Frederick job a decade ago, then-Mayor Jennifer Dougherty said he surprised the interview committee by saying, “I can’t guarantee we’re going to lower the crime rate.” The former mayor said Dine “was saying he wasn’t going to tell us that he can solve all the problems of Frederick City. I respected his opinion, and I sought his opinion.”
William H. Graham, the pastor of Frederick’s First Missionary Baptist Church and a police chaplain, said of Dine, “I think he could’ve run for mayor up here and won.” Graham said Dine scoured the community to connect with residents, visiting churches, knocking on doors, and attending meetings, funerals and cookouts.
“He spoke to everyone,” said Alderman Kelly Russell, a retired police lieutenant who served under Dine. She credited him with bringing in big-city police methods — such as computerized crime tracking and neighborhood substations — and fostering trust between police and residents.
“He dismissed nothing,” Russell said. “He spoke to everyone as if their problem was the biggest problem there was.”
Terrance Gainer — the U.S. Senate sergeant at arms, a former D.C. police executive assistant chief and a former Capitol Police chief — helped select Dine. He said the new chief knows the job and the terrain. “You need someone who is a good leader, but you need consensus builders,” Gainer said of the Capitol Police. “That’s what you need on this Hill.”