UPDATE: Hill Forces' Merger Is On
Two decades after legislators first broached the idea, Congress and the White House have approved a plan to combine the Library of Congress police and the U.S. Capitol Police.
The merger took on new urgency after the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks, which exposed the lack of coordination between officers who work in the same complex. In the confusion that morning, Capitol Police officers left library officers out of the human cordon formed around the Capitol. Police from the two forces weren't able to talk by radio.
Under a bill recently signed by President Bush, the merger will be completed by October 2009. The library force has roughly 100 officers, and the Capitol Police has about 1,700, officials said.
Those with the library police will become Capitol Police officers if they meet that agency's age and service requirements and complete its training program. Those who do not will be offered civilian jobs with the force; they could number about one-fourth of the library police, according to estimates submitted to Congress.
"The merger of these two police forces will result in a safer, more secure Capitol complex," said Rep. Robert A. Brady (D-Pa.), chairman of the House Administration Committee. He sponsored the bill combining the two forces.
Both police forces have expressed support for the merger. Congress has been nudging the effort along since 2003, and some Capitol Police officers have begun working with their counterparts at the library in recent years.
Matt Tighe, the union representative for the Capitol Police, said his officers still had questions about whether some of the Library of Congress police would get jobs that matched their experience.
"For the security of the buildings, it's a great idea," Tighe said. "But we have a lot of concerns about the way the contract is going to affect the employees."
The Library of Congress police were founded as an unarmed force in 1950 to guard the institution and adjacent streets. Since 1987, the officers have carried weapons.
Part of the library lies within Capitol Police jurisdiction, and it is connected by a tunnel to the rest of the Capitol complex.
The agreement to merge took years because of differences in the police forces' responsibilities, retirement packages and training.
-- Mary Beth Sheridan