|TRAFICANT, James A., Jr.,|
Friday, October 2, 1998
Washington, D.C. – Legislation introduced by U.S. Rep. James A. Traficant, Jr. (D–OH) to make sweeping changes to the Federal Protective Service today received the strong endorsement of the four unions representing FPS officers. The endorsements were made this morning at a hearing on Traficant's bill held by the House Transportation and Infrastructure Subcommittee on Public Buildings.
Traficant, the ranking Democrat on the subcommittee, introduced the Federal Protective Service Reform Act of 1998 last June. The bill, H.R. 4034, establishes, by statute, FPS as the principal law enforcement and security agency in the U.S. with respect to federal buildings. The bill also makes FPS a freestanding service within the General Services Administration (FPS is currently part of GSA's Public Building Service). Other provisions of H.R. 4034 would set clear qualification standards for FPS senior managers, clarify and broaden the authority of FPS officers, increase the compensation of FPS officers to the same level of comparable law enforcement agencies, increase the number of full-time FPS officers from 648 to 730, and require contract security guards to undergo the same background checks as FPS officers. Finally, the bill directs the General Accounting Office to conduct a feasibility study of folding all federal building security agencies into FPS.
Mr. Bobby L. Harnage, Sr., national president of the American Federation of Government Employees testified that "AFGE strongly endorses this legislation. It would make federal buildings safer by allowing FPS to attract and retain the most qualified law enforcement personnel, enhancing the powers of Federal Protective Officers, ensuring that FPS is run by managers trained and educated in law enforcement, and reducing FPS' crippling reliance on rent-a-cops. Representative Traficant's legislation is an excellent response to the severe problems which continue to jeopardize the safety and security of federal buildings. He is to be commended for the comprehensive scope of his thoughtful legislation."
Mr. John Blake, president of Local 529 of the International Brotherhood of Police Officers, testified that the Traficant bill "will finally recognize the Federal Protective Officer as a legitimate law enforcement professional. As a police officer myself I can say without exception that an officer who is highly motivated, properly trained and adequately compensated, must be the first line of defense against crime and terrorism."
Robert J. Byrd, interim chairman of the National Police Labor Council of the Fraternal Order of Police, testified that H.R. 4034 "correctly addresses the current problems within FPS, namely the status of FPS within GSA, unclear lines of authority and jurisdiction, and non-competitive salary and benefits for our officers." Byrd further noted that "the issue of elevation and separation of FPS is a critical component of H.R. 4034. It will ensure that the mission of the Federal Protective Service is fulfilled by a professional management staff and that accountability is maintained. It will also ensure that human resources and funding provided to the agency will be utilized effectively and as intended by Congress."
James Statnick of the National Federation of Federal Employees testified that FPS "must be autonomous from PBS. Lack of PBS knowledge of law enforcement principles and inefficient management have led to the absence of uniformity among FPS units. Right now, that lack of uniformity threatens the safety and security of federal buildings. H.R. 4034 is necessary to ensure that a trained federal police force will be able to meet increasing demands. Preserving and enhancing FPS will ensure that our officers can accomplish this ever-important mission. I assure you we will do so with the highest degree of professionalism."
According to Traficant, low manpower levels, a flawed management structure, an unfair compensation system and the increasing use of unqualified contract guards are compromising the ability of FPS to do its job. "The longer Congress delays in addressing the problems facing FPS, the more Congress is tempting fate. Our current program doesn't protect us from the phenomenon of terrorism," noted Traficant at the hearing. "Right now, we have a security watch-post. Unless we make some of these structural changes there will be another Oklahoma City," added Traficant, who served as sheriff of Mahoning County (OH) from 1981 to 1985.
Since introducing the bill Traficant has pointed to the April 19, 1995 bombing of the Alfred P. Murrah Building in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma as a prime example of why FPS reform is needed. On the day of the bombing there was one contract security guard on duty in Oklahoma City responsible for protecting three federal buildings – despite the fact that April 19th was a date of great significance to a number of militia and other violent groups in the U.S. For example, April 19, 1995 was the second anniversary of the fatal federal raid in Waco, Texas. April 19th is also the anniversary of the Revolutionary War battles of Lexington and Concord. Finally, on the same day of the bombing, white supremacist Richard Wayne Snell was scheduled to be executed in Arkansas for the killing of a black law enforcement officer. Mr. Snell had been apprehended in the 1970s for threatening to bomb the Murrah Building.
Officials from PBS were not able to answer questions posed by Traficant at the hearing about why there was only one contract guard on duty in Oklahoma City the day of the bombing, and whether or not intelligence information about the significance of April 19th was communicated to FPS officials prior to the bombing.2009