Five Facts on the U.S. Capitol Police

In the wake of last week’s assault on the Capitol, several top officials in the U.S. Capitol Police (USCP), including the police chief and the Senate and the House sergeant-at-arms have now submitted their resignations. Here are five facts on the U.S. Capitol Police.

  1. The USCP was established in 1828.

After several incidents in 1827 with only a single watchman protecting the seat of government, Congress created the USCP. The department was established as a federal law enforcement agency to “Protect the Congress – its Members, employees, visitors, and facilities – so it can fulfill its constitutional and legislative responsibilities in a safe, secure and open environment.”

  1. The USCP has jurisdiction beyond the U.S. Capitol.

The USCP has exclusive jurisdiction in the Capitol and its grounds, an area which is roughly 58-acres and includes all congressional buildings and the Library of Congress. The D.C. Metropolitan Police can make arrests only in the Capitol when authorized by the USCP. Throughout D.C. the USPC has concurrent jurisdiction, along with the Metropolitan Police, and can make arrests for any crimes committed in the Capitol. Moreover, when protecting a member of Congress, its jurisdiction expands to the entire U.S. and its territories.

  1. The USCP is part of the federal legislative branch.

Unlike other police departments or federal agencies, the USCP is directly accountable to Congress, not the president. Specifically, two committees in the House and two in the Senate have oversight: The Committees on Appropriations and on Authorizations. As part of the legislative branch, it is not subject to the same rules and regulations as other police forces or agencies. For example, the USCP is not subject to the Freedom of Information Act.

  1. The USCP has roughly 2,300 employees.

According to the USCP it employs about 2,000 officers and 300 civilians. Within the USCP there are five bureaus that manage all areas of Capitol security from preventing attacks and managing contingency plans to guarding the office buildings. The department is governed by the Capitol Police Board, which consists of the sergeant at arms of the U.S. House of Representatives, the sergeant at arms and doorkeeper of the U.S. Senate, and the architect of the Capitol. The chief of police also serves on the board, in a non-voting capacity. On January 6 the entire Capitol Police force was on duty, according to the Chairman of the Legislative Branch Appropriations Committee, Rep. Tim Ryan (D-OH).

  1. Funding for the USCP has been increasing over the last two decades.

This year the USCP’s annual budget is roughly $515.5 million, a $51.2 million increase from last year’s $464 million. In 2000 its annual budget was roughly one-fifth of its current size, at $115 million. Compared to other police forces, it receives significantly more funding. For example, in 2020 the Detroit Police Department — a police force of 2,200 officers and a jurisdiction of over 90,000 acres — had an annual budget of $330 million. Similarly, the Atlanta Police Department – with 1,700 officers covering a jurisdiction of around 87,000 acres – had an annual budget of $249 million.


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