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Capitol Police Department Repeatedly Sued Over Racial Discrimination

The USCP is alleged to have fostered a hostile environment that is more favorable to White officers and failed to address the consistent use of racially derogatory and discriminatory epithets. In every case, the USCP denied that there were endemic issues within the agency. The ProPublica article does not provide specific reference to documented direct evidence beyond descriptions of the allegations supporting this alleged problem. However, the article does make clear that when Kim Dine became the new chief of the USCP in 2012, he did believe significant improvements needed to be made to the workplace environment.

The atmosphere at the USCP is alleged to be racially charged and leaders need to ensure that these allegations are taken seriously and addressed. In an effort to do so, Dine promoted a Black officer to the position of assistant chief, which was a first for the USCP. Dine began to increase diversity through changes in hiring practices. His hiring of the most qualified officers resulted in a Black woman being placed in charge of the diversity office and another Black woman leading the disciplinary body. These are tremendous first steps to eliminating the perception that race plays a part in the USCP, whose mission is to protect the Capitol grounds.

Racial backgrounds should have no part in who may effectively discharge such an important duty. Congress will likely task the USCP with rooting out any issues arising from racism that may exist after its inquiry into the fallout of the January 6 riot. The USCP failed to stop people from breaking into and rampaging throughout the Capitol building on that day during the Senate’s Electoral College formalization vote. Allegations have been made that officers did not react strongly enough because the crowd was made up of mostly White people. The USCP is only 29% Black in a city with a 46% Black population. By contrast, the D.C. Metropolitan Police Department is 52% Black. Both departments are similar in size and scope, with each having a budget of around $500,000,000 and employing 2,300 officers.

Two unidentified Black officers were upset that they were put at risk from the angry protesters by what the officers claim was a leadership failure. Sharon Blackmon-Malloy is a former USCP officer and lead plaintiff in the 2001 discrimination lawsuit who says she was not surprised by the events of January 6, in that a nearly all White crowd was basically allowed to breach the Capitol building. For 25 years, Blackmon-Malloy even organized protests with other Black officers outside the very buildings they were tasked with protecting. “Nothing ever really was resolved. Congress turned a blind eye to racism on the Hill,” said Blackmon-Malloy, adding, “We got January 6 because no one took us seriously.” She is now vice president of the U.S. Capitol Black Police Association.

Retired Lieutenant Frank Adams was a 20-year veteran with the USCP, and he supervised mostly White officers during his tenure in the patrol division. Adams sued the USCP in both 2001 and 2016 for racial discrimination, saying he witnessed racism constantly. Adams drew a direct line between the unchecked racism and the January 6 events. Adams blames Congress for not listening in the past. “They only become involved in oversight when it’s in the news cycle,” said Adams, and then added, “They ignored the racism happening in the department. They ignored the hate.”

Congress controls the agency and its budget, but it has a mixed record on oversight. Critics say Congress is too deferential toward the force and fails to invoke meaningful accountability upon the leadership of the U.S. Capitol Police. The USCP has also been directly criticized for its lack of transparency and past troubles that have not received necessary reforms.

Representative Eleanor Holmes Norton told ProPublica, “Congress deserves some of the blame. We have complete control over the Capitol police ... and they’ve not been dealt with in the past.” 

 

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