Published April 04, 2006
WASHINGTON – House Republicans pushed a resolution Tuesday commending the Capitol police force for professionalism after a confrontation between an officer and Democratic Rep. Cynthia McKinney.
"I don't think it's fair to attack the Capitol Police and I think it's time that we show our support for them," said Rep. Patrick McHenry, R-N.C., a sponsor of the measure. Ignoring a police officer's order to stop or hitting one "is never OK," McHenry said of the incident, which has exacerbated partisan tensions in the House.
Last week, McKinney had an argument with a uniformed police officer as she sought to enter a House office building. The officer did not recognize her. She refused his order to stop and struck him.
McKinney says she took action in self defense after the officer "inappropriately touched" her.
The six-term Georgia Democrat says the issue is not about whether to obey a police officer's order, whether she hit him or the fact that she was not wearing the lapel pin that identifies members of Congress.
Her lawyers have said that a series of confrontations between McKinney and U.S. Capitol and White House law enforcement officers who don't recognize her points to a pattern.
"The issue is racial profiling," McKinney, who is black, told CNN Monday.
The resolution being introduced Tuesday came as McKinney awaited a prosecutor's decision on whether to press any criminal charges against her. The Capitol Police on Monday sought an arrest warrant by turning over their investigation of the incident to U.S. Attorney Kenneth L. Wainstein.
The measure put forward Tuesday, which is co-sponsored by Rep. Mario Diaz-Balart, R-Fla., would not specifically mention McKinney or the confrontation, McHenry said.
Instead, sponsors said, it would commend the Capitol Police for their professionalism and recognize the challenge of protecting the vast Capitol campus from terrorism and other threats while keeping it open to tourists.
"Every day they exhibit honor, courtesy and professionalism," Diaz-Balart said in a statement.
McKinney says that has not been her experience. She says Capitol Police officers have a long history of failing to recognize her and asking for identification — a pattern she says is racist and in any case highlights a security problem in one of the most well-guarded buildings in the country.
McKinney has drawn little support from her House colleagues, particularly Democrats who are launching an election-year campaign that revolves around the party's commitment to national security.
Her lawyer, James Myart Jr., issued a statement on Friday saying several members of Congress would join McKinney at a press conference on Friday at Howard University.
None did. D.C. Delegate Eleanor Holmes Norton issued a statement of concern about the incident and urged the parties to come to an agreement. A spokesman for Rep. Mel Watt, D-N.C., chairman of the Congressional Black Caucus, said he has no comment.
McHenry, who at 30 is the youngest member of Congress, said he is routinely stopped by Capitol Police and asked for identification.
"When I'm not wearing my pin, I am always stopped," McHenry said in a telephone interview. "I accept that as a due course of security."