April 5, 2006 in Nation/World

Measure would praise police action in scuffle with congresswoman

Laurie Kellman Associated Press
 
The Spokesman-Review photo

McKinney
(Full-size photo)

WASHINGTON – House Republicans, reacting to the confrontation last week between Rep. Cynthia McKinney and a Capitol Police officer she is accused of hitting, introduced a resolution Tuesday to commend the police force for its professionalism. Democratic leaders did not defend McKinney or her charge of racial profiling.

“I don’t think any of it justifies hitting a police officer,” said House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi of California. “If it did happen, I don’t think it was justified.”

Rep. Mel Watt, D-N.C., chairman of the Congressional Black Caucus, had no comment, a spokesman said.

As a federal prosecutor considered whether to press assault or other charges against McKinney, Republicans presented their resolution, which commends police for their professionalism toward members of Congress and visitors even though they “endure physical and verbal assaults in some extreme cases.”

“I don’t think it’s fair to attack the Capitol Police, and I think it’s time that we show our support for them,” said Rep. Patrick McHenry, R-N.C., a sponsor of the measure. Ignoring a police officer’s order to stop, or hitting one, “is never OK,” McHenry said.

McKinney is alleged to have hit a uniformed police officer who did not recognize her and asked her to stop on her way into a House office building.

McKinney says she took action in self-defense after the officer inappropriately touched her. A spokesman for the congresswoman did not respond Tuesday to a request for comment.

The six-term Georgia Democrat says the issue is not about whether to obey a police officer’s order, whether she hit him or the fact that she was not wearing the lapel pin that identifies members of Congress.

She and her lawyers have said that a series of confrontations between McKinney and Capitol and White House law enforcement officers who don’t recognize her points to a pattern.

“The issue is racial profiling,” McKinney, who is black, told CNN Monday.

The measure introduced late Tuesday, co-sponsored by Rep. Mario Diaz-Balart, R-Fla., does not specifically mention McKinney or the confrontation, McHenry said.

Instead, the nonbinding measure declares that Capitol Police “must remain constantly alert for … failure to respond to requests and instructions” and “consistently apply security and safety measures to all, including members of Congress.”

“Every day they exhibit honor, courtesy and professionalism,” Diaz-Balart said in a statement.

McKinney says that has not been her experience. She says Capitol Police officers have a long history of failing to recognize her and asking for identification, a pattern she says is racist and in any case highlights a security problem in one of the most well-guarded buildings in the country.

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