Bill Establishing the United States Capitol Police

Bill Establishing the United States Capitol Police/tiles/non-collection/l/lfp_054imgtile1.xml
Image courtesy of the National Archives and Records Administration
Bill Establishing the United States Capitol Police/tiles/non-collection/l/lfp_054imgtile2.xml
Image courtesy of the National Archives and Records Administration

Description

“For the care, preservation, orderly keeping, and police, of those portions of the Capitol and its appurtenances, which are in the exclusive use and occupation of either House of Congress, respectively.” Representative Stephen Van Rensselaer from the Committee on Public Buildings and Grounds reported this joint resolution, marked up to reflect changes made during consideration of the legislation, out of committee on February 4, 1828. Ultimately enacted as the Public Buildings Appropriations Act, it became law on May 2, 1828, and expanded the jurisdiction of policing in Washington, DC, to include the Capitol and its grounds and created what is now known as the United States Capitol Police (USCP).

Until 1800, no dedicated police force protected Congress, its Members, and its meeting places. After Congress moved from Philadelphia to Washington, DC, in 1800, the first real need for security was recognized. In 1801, John Golding served as the sole guard at the Capitol, tasked to “take as much care as possible of the property of the United States.” Golding had no legal authority and was only allowed to temporarily detain persons suspected of causing damage to government property. However, by 1828, some Members grew concerned about the permeable nature of the Capitol grounds after the perimeter fencing was breached to bring in cattle to graze. This led to the extension of enforcement of city security regulations to the Capitol grounds, including the ability to cite trespassers.

After its founding in 1828, the USCP’s ranks, jurisdiction, and leadership continued to evolve. Originally a force of four strong, an additional member was added in the early 1840s, and by the 1870s, USCP’s duty station expanded to include the United States Botanic Garden. In 1867, in a significant change in leadership, the House and Senate Sergeants at Arms assumed authority over the police force after the position of Commissioner of Public Buildings was eliminated. The Sergeants at Arms selected new uniforms and paid for two suits apiece, as well as the “necessary belts, arms, and so forth,” for each Capitol Police officer and watchman.

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