Law Enforcement in Washington D.C.: an Explainer

  1. The U.S. Capitol Police (USCP) has more than 2,000 officers who protect the buildings in the U.S. Capitol Complex and share responsibility for the land surrounding it with MPD, the local police. The Capitol Police Board and U.S. House and Senate Appropriations and Authorizing Committees jointly authorize and oversee the Capitol Police. Officer Eugene Goodman, who was awarded the Congressional Gold Medal for saving numerous members of Congress in the Senate chamber from the rioters, is a Capitol Police officer.
  2. In charge of policing all National Parks across the country, the U.S. Park Police (USPP) are the law enforcement responsible for the Memorial Parks and National Mall. The National Mall is not a real mall; it’s the land stretching from the U.S. Capitol on the East, the Lincoln Memorial on the West, the White House on the North and the area around the Tidal Basin on the South. It includes several national monuments and memorials and borders several governmental buildings. In Washington, D.C. the 300 permanently stationed USPP Officers have the same powers and duties as the D.C. Metro Police. In fact, the USPP typically fulfills the role of “the frontline law enforcement agency during protests and demonstrations in the National Mall and outside the White House.”
  3. The U.S. Secret Service protects our nation’s highest elected leaders, visiting foreign heads of state, and national security events. This includes securing and protecting the buildings where these individuals are, such as the White House and the Capitol.
  4. The D.C. National Guard (DCNG) is the official “protector of the District of Columbia.” Every state, as well as four territories (D.C., Guam, Puerto Rico, and the U.S. Virgin Islands), has its own National Guard, which responds to domestic emergencies. Since D.C. is a territory rather than a state, the D.C. National Guard reports directly to the U.S. President. Other states’ National Guards report to their state Governors.
  5. The Federal Protective Services (FPS) is the uniformed police division of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security. They protect the physical buildings and property of the federal government, including the Capitol building.
  6. The Federal Bureau of Investigations (FBI) works to prevent domestic and international terrorism and espionage; protect civil rights; and combat public corruption, significant cybercriminal and transnational criminal operations, violent crime, and white-collar crime. The Attorney General and the Director of National Intelligence jointly oversee the FBI, which is headquartered in D.C. and has about 400 offices across the country and 60 more throughout the world. The FBI is investigating and pursuing individuals involved in what it is calling the “Capitol violence.”
  7. The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives (ATF) works within the U.S. Department of Justice to protect the public from crimes related to the controlled substances and weapons included in the agency’s name. ATF is headquartered in Washington, DC with 25 offices across the country and 12 across the world. ATF agents were involved with the January 6th insurrection because many rioters were carrying firearms and some planted the pipe bombs placed around the Democratic and Republican party headquarters in D.C.
  8. The U.S. Marshals Service, the first federal law enforcement agency in the U.S., is a bureau within the U.S. Department of Justice that serves as the enforcement arm of the federal courts, including 94 U.S. District Courts and 12 circuits of the U.S. Court of Appeals. Marshals enforce decisions made by judges and justices in court decisions in addition to protecting the federal judicial process, including protecting federal judges, court officials, witnesses, jurors, the visiting public, and prisoners. For example, after the Supreme Court decision Brown v. Board of Education held that racial segregation in public schools was unconstitutional, U.S. Marshals protected Black students integrating into public schools. U.S. Marshals often support MPD and the Secret Service at large D.C. events, such as Inauguration Day.
  1. Investigation and Accountability: Rock the Vote has called for an investigation into the failed security that enabled a rebellious mob of white nationalists to engage in this insurrection and to hold individuals accountable.
  2. Statehood for Washington, D.C.: The handling of the Capitol riots has led to renewed calls for D.C. statehood to ensure fair representation and authority to make decisions that protect its community. D.C. Statehood is a civil rights issue, particularly as the District is majority-minority and its residents do not have the same rights as those in other parts of the country. Reach out to your Senators and Representatives and encourage them to support D.C. statehood. You can find your federal representatives and their contact information here.
  3. Justice and Police Reform: offices like Sheriff, District Attorney, and Mayor — which play a crucial role in determining criminal justice and policing decisions made in your community — are elected at the Municipal level. Make sure you use your voice and vote if your community has local elections this year by signing up for election reminders here.

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