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Columns : Editorial

Name Dropping

The McKinney incident sheds light on security lapses caused by arrogant VIPs.

May 01, 2006  |  by - Also by this author

If you are reading this column, odds are that you are a police officer or deputy sheriff who has at one time in your career worked traffic. That means that you have likely come up against people who invoked special privilege when you tried to write them a ticket.

And sometimes your decision-making process has been swayed by the VIP status of the individual involved. It sucks, doesn’t it? But it’s a fact of life that as George Orwell wrote in “Animal Farm,” “All animals are equal, but some animals are more equal than others.”

Nowhere in this country are “some animals more equal than others” than in Washington, D.C. So as much as it galls you to give special privilege to the mayor’s kid or some other VIP in your town, imagine what it’s like to be a sworn officer in the U.S. Capitol Police, a jurisdiction filled with people who believe they are above the law because they were elected to make the law.

Think about it. The U.S. Capitol Building is one of the world’s biggest targets. Tom Clancy imagined the destruction of the building and everyone in it by means of a jetliner kamikaze long before 9/11. The building and the legislators within are on the hit list of every domestic and international terrorist that has a beef with Uncle Sam. It also attracts just plain old armed loonies.

So security at the Capitol is pretty tight. A mere power outage can lead to an evacuation of the building. A baby powder spill somewhere in its halls can result in Homeland Security agents scrambling to the scene to check out a “suspicious white powder.” And flying over the building in a private plane is likely to get the errant pilot a fighter escort out of the area.

Yes, security is a major concern at the U.S. Capitol. And the Capitol Police have the place locked down, except for one glaring vulnerability. They have to let members of the House of Representatives and the Senate bypass their security procedures.

Case in point, Rep. Cynthia McKinney (D-Ga.). Back in late March, McKinney went around a metal detector and an alert officer of the Capitol Police tried to stop her, so she allegedly struck him. McKinney claims the officer is a racist. The Capitol Police have mulled charging the congresswoman with assault. And the whole thing is an idiotic mess. I don’t want to talk about it.

What I do want to discuss, however, is the revelation that McKinney and her colleagues flout security procedures on the grounds that they are too important to care. You see, there is a special pin that legislators are supposed to wear to identify them to the Capitol Police so that they can enter the building without a security check.

McKinney has long refused to wear the pin because she is one of the few African-American female legislators and the Capitol Police should know her on sight. She says that her white male colleagues are not challenged by the police when they don’t wear their pins.

It’s bad enough that anyone wearing the special Congressional pledge pin can pass through Capitol security with a nod. Now, these arrogant elected windbags aren’t even wearing the pin. They’re just winking their way around the metal detectors based on the fact that the Capitol cops should know who they are.

But I have a solution to the whole problem. Dump the privilege pins and make the senators and representatives wait in the security lines like everybody else. Maybe that will help them remember the threat faced by all Americans in this age of terrorism. And maybe, just maybe, it will help them appreciate the work of the Capitol Police who protect them and the public every day.

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