It looks like the Secret Service isn’t the only law enforcement agency in Washington D.C. that has a serious accountability problem.
Last week, an investigation by Roll Call reporters revealed that Capitol Hill Police officers accidently left loaded guns around the nation’s capital where anyone might find them. On one occasion, this perverse Easter egg hunt could have led to tragedy when a small child found one of these weapons in a Capitol complex bathroom.
One officer assigned to protect Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) left his gun in a toilet seat cover holder in a bathroom stall in the Capitol Visitor Center in January, according to the paper.
Another assigned to the detail of Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) left a firearm in the bathroom of the Speaker’s suite, where a 7- or 8-year-old visiting child discovered the gun. The Glock pistol left by Boehner’s detail does not have a traditional locking mechanism and could still be fired when left out, Roll Call reported.
A janitor found the third pistol out in the Capitol Police headquarters, according to the paper.
The report indicated that Capitol Hill Police recommended a six-day suspension for the officer on McConnell’s detail while the other two incidents remain under investigation.
Capitol Hill Police authorities have responded to this report as would any other unresponsive and aloof bureaucracy: By covering their own butts. A subsequent Roll Call report revealed this weekend that the Capitol Hill Police are conducting an investigation into these incidents by focusing on finding the individual responsible for leaking the details of the lost guns to the press.
“Recent media reports regarding three cases of U.S. Capitol Police (USCP) officers improperly handling their Department issued weapons in the Capitol Complex, should not have been released to the public, as these are law enforcement sensitive, internal personnel matters currently under investigation,” USCP spokesperson Lt. Kimberly A. Schneider said in a statement. “At the request of Chief [Kim] Dine, the United States Capitol Police Office of Inspector General (IG) is investigating these matters. The IG is independent and reports directly to the United States Capitol Police Board.”
Some lawmakers indicated Friday that it may be time to revisit whether such information should remain shielded from public scrutiny.
Oversight and Government Reform ranking Democrat Elijah E. Cummings of Maryland said of the USCP’s exemption from the Freedom of Information Act: “I think as long as we’re not threatening opening the door for people to do negative things by giving out information, then I think the public should know.”
Apparently, perennial laments about the safety of The Children take a backseat when careers are on the line and pensions are at stake. While all Americans would certainly like to see a thorough investigation into these incidents, discovering who is responsible for making them public knowledge is low on the list of public priorities.