Several dozen of the officers who provide security for most federal buildings trooped into the offices of their employers in the General Services Administration yesterday to demand better training, pay and benefits, and more respect.
Of the Washington area's myriad law enforcement agencies, Federal Protective Service officers get the lowest pay and benefits, James E. Hooks, president of the officers' union, told a GSA official during a confrontation in the official's sixth-floor.
Hooks blamed the officers' low economic status partly on the fact that, in the Washington area, they are overwhelmingly black.
"My family can't live on my $13,000 a year." said one officer who has been with the agency for seven years.
If he had worked for the Executive Protective Service for the District of Columbia's Metropolitan Police force, he said, he would be getting between $18,000 and $21,000 after seven years.
"We've studied this. Even the Smithsonian's police and the Library of Congress police get more than we do," said officer Richard Simms.
The officers said that these conditions have persisted since the agency's founding in 1971, although educational requirements are higher than, and the hazajds of their jobs are at least equal to, those of other law enforcement organizations.
Paul Goulding, deputy administrator of GSA, listened to the complaints of the more than three-dozen men and women crowded into his office. They had asked to see administrator Jay Solomon, who reportedly was out.
Goulding agreed to study the complaints and respond to them by next Monday. If he doesn't, the officers threatened to "occupy" the GSA offices until they get action.
Yesterday's confrontation, which began with picketing outside GSA headquarters on F Street NW between 18th and 19th streets., was precipitated by Carter administration proposals to downgrade the officers' jobs and pay or to replace them gradually with outside guards under contract.
Goulding told the officers that GSA is bound by policy set by the Office of Management and Budget in such matters.
In the Washington area, five Federal Protective officers have been shot in the line of duty and four while off duty since 1972, the officers said.
The officers also complained of being denied access to pistol practice facilities, although some officers have been dismissed for failing to requalify in regular marksmanship training.
Because of the low state of morale, officers charged the Federal Protective Service has lost about 1,700 employes in the last two years. It cost about $1.5 million to train those lost employes, a union spokesman said.