Security for Elected Officials, Revisited

Originally written 11/7/2017

Am I wrong to think a member of Congress missing votes due to threats on their lives is a threat to our democracy? Right now every piece of legislation in the Senate is at the mercy of one or two Senators, without whose support a bill can’t pass.

Don’t believe that? The Health Care Freedom Act or “Skinny” repeal amendment failed 49-51 when only three members of the Senate voted no, John McCain of Arizona with Susan Collins of Maine and Lisa Murkowski of Alaska.

Later the President claimed they could pass the bill except Sen. Thad Cochran was in the hospital and couldn’t vote. Meaning only one vote was the difference in passing a massive piece of legislation that would affect 17.8 percent of this nation’s gross domestic product. The Senator was not in the hospital, he was in fact at home recovering from a medical condition, but you get the point.

Where are we today? Well, the October 26, 2017, Washington Post article titled “Rep. Frederica Wilson skips votes in Washington as she faces ‘racist and rude’ threats” written by Ed O’Keefe and Elise Viebeck makes it absolutely clear what effect the increased threats to members of Congress is having on the people’s business in Washington Dc.

The article states Rep. Frederica S. Wilson of Florida felt it necessary to “skip votes” because of “a wave of threats against her since she sparred with President Trump”. That in itself is a concern, but let me highlight something else in this article that should concern everyone, Representative Wilson didn’t just skip votes, no, the honorable lady, in fact, spent the week home in her Miami district protected by a security detail, and with the U.S. Capitol Police monitoring her office on Capitol Hill.

In previous articles I have written on this topic I have noted the increase of threats being made on elected officials, and for those who think these threats are just the hollow ramblings of discontented voters I would refer you to Rep Gifford’s and House Majority Whip Steve Scalise who were both shot and nearly killed by a gunman.

The security reviews being undertaken by Congress, the Capitol Hill police and other agencies are encouraging. Though with all due respect, I fear some members of Congress will continue to voice the same old tired nonsense of “I’m just like everyone else, I don’t need security” and thus will continue to endanger our democracy.

As I mentioned in a previous article, a bill is now working its way through Congress that would provide an adjustment in the budget so members of Congress can hire private security, and believe me when I tell you there are a few in the private security market already lining up for that money. One of the larger companies has a 40+ page proposal they have been trying to get into the hands of anyone in Congress that will read it, in the hope of a national contract to provide security to members of Congress. 

In fairness, I don’t blame them from a business standpoint, securing a contract for providing security to members of Congress would be a feather in the cap of any company. My issue with them is it’s all about the money, and there is no concern for the safety and integrity of our democratic process.

But I also hold elected officials accountable for that same lack of respect, in that by refusing to take appropriate safety and security measures they are endangering the very office they were elected to fill, and the work they were supposed to be doing for their constituents. You can’t represent your district and vote on legislation is you’re dead or in the hospital.

Members of Congress forgive me, but you are not like me, I can’t call the White House to discuss a matter with the President or with members of his/her staff. You are no longer an individual person, but rather a critical piece of equipment in the machine of government. You are a symbol of our democracy, and as the Speaker pointed out after the shooting of Rep Scalise “an attack on one member of Congress is an attack on all of us”

Again, I say this with all due respect, but please stop being selfish and just thinking about you, instead, you need to think about the work you need to be doing for us the voters, your constituents, your district and your country. Work that you can’t do if you’re not here to do it, and yes your Governor will appoint a replacement or there will be a special election, but until then there will be a hole in the fabric of our nation.

Questions arise on what congressional security should look like back home in the districts. Should it be local or state law enforcement, teams from the National Guard perhaps, or private security? As someone who has been training and preparing local and state law enforcement as well as private security for close protection duties of elected officials and corporate executives, I can tell you both the police and private agents when properly resourced, equipped and trained can do a great job.

But in my opinion, the private security industry, in general, is not ready to provide close protection at a national level, and if members of Congress correctly decide the nation’s business is more important than their bias against having security, then the use of local security vendors should be accompanied by mandatory training, licensing and vetting requirements.   

I share with Rep. Cedric L. Richmond and the Congressional Black Caucus their concern for Congresswoman Wilson’s safety, and for the safety of all their members. Violence from racism has increased in its threat to our elected officials, but I’m also concerned for the safety of every member of Congress, their families, and close staff because our country is more divided than ever for more reasons that even. And with this division, we need our elected officials to come together and work for all of us.

I and the entire ISA staff will do what is needed to support the goal of establishing a safe and secure environment for our elected officials working in close cooperation with the Capitol Hill Police, The Office of the Sergeant of Arms, and local and state law enforcement.

We just need members of Congress to join us and realize you are part of something bigger than your title or office; you are a symbol of democracy. Time to act like it.

About the author: Matthew Parker is the CEO of Independent Security Advisors LLC, A Maryland based security company that provides consulting and close protection services to diplomats/trade delegations, corporate executives, celebrities, victims of domestic violence and others.

Mr. Parker oversees ISA training programs that are accredited by multiple state agencies, law enforcement, and approved for college credit. Mr. Parker and ISA instructors have trained federal, state and local law enforcement as well as members of the military and private and corporate security in dignitary protection, terrorism awareness, and extremism.

ISA students serve on close protection details for elected officials, world leaders, corporate executives and high net worth individuals.     

Mr. Parker is a DOD certified Anti-Terrorism Officer / Instructor, Close Protection Specialist / Instructor and state law enforcement subject matter expert/instructor.

References for this article:

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