Capitol Police IG Pushes For Greater Transparency

On Wednesday, U.S. Capitol Police Inspector General (IG) Ron Russo declared his intention to seek increased transparency regarding the internal reports of the department, acknowledging the pressing need for effective oversight of the agency. This comes at a critical time as Capitol Police, a unit that came under fire for its response to the January 6, 2021, Capitol protests, faces an uphill battle to restore its reputation.

Russo assumed the IG role on January 29 and was tasked with monitoring the agency for waste, fraud and performance issues. Speaking to the House Administration Subcommittee on Oversight, Russo emphasized the importance of whistleblower protection. “It’s super serious that people feel comfortable to come to us without fear of retaliation so it’s a priority to make sure we handle that with great care,” he said.

The IG, however, drew attention to a striking fact. Since the office’s establishment in 2005, only two of the roughly 650 reports produced have been made public. Such a number paints a concerning picture of opacity within the institution meant to uphold law and order in our nation’s capital.

Rep. Anthony D’Esposito (R-NY) expressed concern about the treatment of whistleblowers who voiced worries over intelligence failures before January 6. “These whistleblowers were put on a performance-improvement plan and forced out of the department,” D’Esposito alleged. He inquired about Russo’s stance on such actions. Russo affirmed his commitment to protecting whistleblowers, labeling it as “one of the most important things we do.”

The IG added, however, that decisions to release reports are not within his sole power. “The Capitol Police board decides on a case-by-case basis,” he explained, revealing a fundamental barrier to the transparency he champions. Despite this, Russo remained hopeful about more reports becoming public soon.

In his opening statement, Chairman Rep. Barry Loudermilk (R-GA) confirmed that the subcommittee is investigating claims of retaliation against employees who had spoken with the Inspector General’s office. This situation marks an unsettling chapter in the internal dynamics of the Capitol Police, requiring immediate scrutiny.

Beyond internal politics, the Capitol Police has broader accountability to the public and Congress. The Capitol Police Board, the decision-maker on report releases, comprises the House sergeant-at-arms, the Senate sergeant-at-arms, and the Architect of the Capitol. Russo disclosed a 2017 directive by the Board not to make the IG reports public, further challenging the push for transparency.

While we respect the critical work of the Capitol Police, it’s evident that openness must be a part of the reform to regain public trust and ensure accountability. The question is whether the necessary steps will be taken to pull back the curtain of secrecy that has so far characterized much of the agency’s operations. Despite the task’s complexity, preserving democracy calls for nothing less than complete transparency.

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