The 1,800 men and women who make up the U.S. Capitol Police are walking archives of the fortress they protect.
Because the force’s turnover rate is so much lower than that of Congress, its members tell tales of a different Hill. They recall a place where the streets between congressional office buildings were open to traffic, where criminals from violent neighborhoods would come to hide, and where the date September 11, 2001, sounded just like another Tuesday.
Ten years ago, with the 1998 shooting of two fellow officers still fresh in their memories, armed assailants were the Hill’s biggest security threat. But the terrorist attacks added bombs to the list and the demolition of the infamous Arthur Capers dwellings south of the Capitol in 2004 reduced the number of minor crimes. Capers was part of the Capitol Police’s extended jurisdiction and has now been replaced by Nationals Park and mixed-income condominiums. The concerns over muggings and purse-snatchings gave way to the fear of one very serious attack—something that has changed the force's strategy.
National Journal spent a day with four Capitol Police officers, each from a different division, and learned how the job has changed over the past decade.