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U.S. Capitol Police Focused on Terror

Under standard law enforcement training, officers are told to take "center mass body shots" if they have to use their guns. But Gainer said that police have to change tactics if faced with a terrorist.

"The use of deadly force under any circumstances is the last resort," Gainer said. "But if a suicide bomber is loaded with explosives, a gunshot wound to center mass wouldn't be prudent. You need to take a head shot."

Supreme Court Police Cpl. Frank O'Neill checks identification on Second Street NE. Reaction to recent steps to increase security in the city has been mixed. (James M. Thresher -- The Washington Post)

Securing the City: Police Chief Charles H. Ramsey discussed security procedures throughout the District.
Tightened Security
Possible Targets
Tracking Code Orange
Descriptions of Threat Levels
_____More on Preparedness_____
Security Might Get Tighter Yet, Officials Say (The Washington Post, Aug 4, 2004)
Some Sluggishness Detected In New District Alert System (The Washington Post, Aug 4, 2004)
Street Closing Irks D.C. Leaders (The Washington Post, Aug 3, 2004)
Williams Battles Anxiety About Terrorism (The Washington Post, Aug 3, 2004)
Va. Terror Drills Set Up Worst-Case Scenarios (The Washington Post, Aug 3, 2004)
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In the spring, Gainer faced resistance when he advocated erecting a fence around the Capitol, an idea that had been proposed five times since 1985. He argued that the Capitol, a preeminent symbol of American democracy, should be protected in the same manner as the White House. The White House has a wrought-iron fence ringing the grounds, and the street in front of it is closed to traffic.

The idea drew conflicting reactions from the leaders of the House and Senate, and no action was taken.

Gainer's proposal of a virtual fence of security around the Capitol would permit searches of packages and people anywhere on the Capitol grounds. Currently, visitors to the Capitol go through metal detectors and can be searched if they enter any of the buildings.

Capitol officials said yesterday that even before Sunday's announcement, they had planned to shut First Street between the Russell and Dirksen Senate office buildings this month.

"We were going to do that anyway," said Senate Sergeant-at-Arms William H. Pickle. "It was just a coincidence they raised it about the same time."

Several streets near House office buildings have been closed for years. Gainer said he has been increasingly worried about First Street in light of "blast studies" of the damage that could be caused by a car or truck bomb in such a tight space.

"A car with a 2,000-pound bomb concealed in the trunk would do substantial damage structurally, as well as cause thousands of deaths," he said. "Most of the post-9/11 discussion was, 'Why weren't you guys in law enforcement doing something on 7/11 or 8/11?' We're at the vortex here. We think this is a thinking man's way to approach this."

Staff writers Helen Dewar and Spencer S. Hsu contributed to this report.

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