The General Accounting Office, citing opportunities for savings and greater efficiency, has recommended increased coordination of a patchwork of 15 special police forces operated by government agencies in the District of Columbia.
Although it stopped short of recommending a consolidation of the various forces, the GAO suggested that such a step could produce "an adequately trained, well-disciplined, coordinated security force" to guard 498 government-occupied buildings in the city.
The GAO, an investigatory arm of Congress, disclosed in its report released yesterday that the White House - through its Office of Management and Budget - already is considering some degree of consolidation or standardization of police and building guard activities.
The report covered 11 forces operated by federal agencies and four by the D.C. government, but did not deal with four of the largest units that have broad police jurisdiction - the D.C. Metropolitan Police, the U.S. Park Police, and U.S. Capitol Police and the Metro Transit Police. A separate report on them is being prepared, GAO said.
Short of consolidating activities of the smaller special police forces, the GAO said, the various units could take steps to buy supplies jointly, standardize equipment and uniforms, develop improved training programs and employment standards and adopt common security guidelines.
Current training varies widely, the report said.
"For example, one force that required guards to carry guns provided no formal basic training in firearms use," it said. "An official of the force told us such training was not provided because firing ranges were not available . . ."
At the opposite extreme, another force trained its personnel in use of guns but did not require that they be carried on the job.
The report was prepared for the Senate D.C. Appropriations Subcommittee, which has jurisdiction only over the city-financed forces, which guard city office buildings, public libraries and educational institutions.
Because the city gained home rule in 1975, the GAO said the city, forces should not be consolidated with those of the federal government, although they might be better coordinated.
Two problem areas cited by GAO among the various forces were variations in employment standards, reflected in widely varying wage rates, and costly procurement practices. Units at the lower end of the pay scale experience low moral and high turnover, the report said.
The GAO said any suggestion for consolidation received a cold shoulder from agencies that want to maintain control over their own guard forces. "Whether the responsiveness (of a consolidated force) to agency needs would suffer is a matter of conjecture," the report said, noting that a better-trained, better-disciplined force may do a better job.