In proposing to wall off the Capitol grounds last year and in closing First Street without warning or consultation with the Metropolitan Police or the city, Capitol Police Chief Terrance W. Gainer has demonstrated his lack of understanding of the special place of the Capitol in American life ["Security Might Get Tighter Yet, Officials Say," front page, Aug. 4].

The Capitol is the home of the legislature -- the branch of government that directly represents citizens. Citizens have a right to maximum access to their legislature. That they should have to explain their purpose at a police checkpoint just to gain access to the grounds is repugnant.

Mr. Gainer's manner of communicating is as insulting as the decisions. The chief is quoted as saying, "By golly, it is inconvenient to people. It would have been inconvenient to people in August 2001 to increase security at the airport."

I resent his imputation that my concerns are motivated by a craven sense of personal inconvenience, and I reject his false dichotomy. A middle ground is possible between no effective security and fencing the Capitol.

Finally, I resent the transfer of risk from the privileged to citizens at large. Every time we wall off a section of the Federal City, we raise the target profile of the community to which access remains free. This is the inverse of the sense of personal sacrifice that was once associated with public service.

Will no one rein in this chief?

ERIK LEDBETTER

Rockville

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Code Orange is Capitol Police Chief Terrance W. Gainer's dream come true. He has sought to barricade the viewing galleries in the House and build a fence around the Capitol. Now he wants to close streets one by one.

Congress is not pleased with such power grabs. This year's bill to fund the Capitol Police denied Mr. Gainer's request for 368 additional positions. Further, the bill prohibits anything that would further the construction or consideration of a fence to enclose the Capitol grounds.

On Capitol Hill, the police mission was once to expedite the business of Congress, speeding ingress and egress. Now it seems to be "no-gress" and, even worse, transgress against residents and Hill staff. Enough.

ROCHELLE S. DORNATT

Washington

The writer is chief of staff for Rep. Sam Farr (D-Calif.).