An alarming escalation in threats aimed at members of Congress has been reported, with a rise of 400% noted over the previous six years, as per the testimony given by the U.S. Capitol Police Chief before Congress. This surge in threats is taking place in a time when officers are battling fatigue induced by a lack of sufficient staffing.
Chief Tom Manger highlighted the low morale amongst officers and declining public trust in law enforcement, stating in his congressional testimony, “Low officer morale, and the public’s declining confidence in law enforcement, put a further strain on the organization. Hiring within law enforcement remains challenging in the post-pandemic environment, not just for the department but nation-wide, as men and women consider other options that provide a better work-life balance.”
Given the intensifying threats, Chief Manger has underscored the need for his department to evolve into a comprehensive protective agency. The envisioned transformation would enable the department to not only protect Congress while in Washington, but also safeguard lawmakers and their families across the country.
However, implementing this transformation poses substantial challenges, especially as officers persistently work on compulsory overtime and witness their days off being rescinded. A case in point is the Dignitary Protection Division, where agents are presently averaging 50 hours of overtime per pay cycle.
Speaking on the issue, Chief Manger stated, “It is probably the issue that impacts morale the most in my opinion. Right after January 6, there were a host of issues that were impacting morale, but this is the one that we have not been able to get our arms around yet.”
In recent times, there have been several attacks on lawmakers or their offices. The most recent incident occurred on May 15 at a district office of Rep. Gerald Connolly, D-Va., where an individual armed with a baseball bat assaulted two staff members. The motive is yet to be determined, although the suspect has a known history of mental illness and violent behavior. It is noteworthy that district offices do not fall under the jurisdiction of the Capitol Police.
At present, the Capitol Police force consists of 1,994 officers. Chief Manger has indicated a need for an additional 200 officers at every level. Furthermore, he has deferred the promotion of acting assistant chiefs, as such promotions could potentially lead to fewer officers on the front lines.
To help retain officers, the department has introduced various incentives, such as salary hikes, retention bonuses, and student loan repayment plans, among others.