WASHINGTON — More than a month after his swearing-in, framed photos, paintings and commendations remain stacked on the side table next to a couch in Chief Kim Dine’s expansive office at United States Capitol Police headquarters.
“I’ve got no decorations up,” Dine said. “I haven’t had time. Very many long days and nights. I did that a lot in Frederick too, but the difference is that my commute isn’t two minutes and 13 seconds. I actually timed it one day.”
Dine, 59, who led the Frederick Police Department for 10 years before moving on last month, couldn’t have picked a more hectic time to take over one of the nation’s largest and most prestigious police agencies. With the inauguration of President Barack Obama right around the corner and planning well under way, Dine walked into a whirlwind of activity.
As a result, he said he hasn’t been doing much of anything other than sleeping, working and drinking coffee. Even squeezing in a visit to the gym has become nearly impossible. Because of his packed schedule, Dine said he has yet to visit with the entire department, which employs 1,775 officers.
“Obviously there’s a familiarity and learning curve anyway, but with the inauguration coming up even more so,” Dine said. “It’s a tremendous challenge. In a lot of ways, it was the perfect time to come in. You might as well jump in to one of the most challenging aspects.”
Successfully pulling off an inauguration requires an incredible amount of planning and coordination between Capitol Police and numerous other agencies, Dine said, as well as putting lessons learned from past inaugurations into action. Because it is designated as a national special security event, the Secret Service takes the lead role in providing security.
With between 600,000 and 800,000 visitors expected to converge on the Mall today, Dine said there is a fine balance between managing crowds and assuring maximum security on one hand, and making it an enjoyable and memorable event for attendees on the other.
“It’s kind of a big giant version of what community policing is all about,” Dine said, referring to the philosophy that places importance on establishing relationships within the community. “It’s about marshaling resources and working with stakeholders, and that’s kind of what happens here. It’s an event beyond what people can imagine in terms of magnitude.”
Dine said he was struck by the unique nature of the Capitol Police tasks, some aspects of which he has plenty of experience from his time in Frederick and with Metropolitan Police, where he was an assistant chief. But others, like the protection of members of congress and other dignitaries, are not as familiar to the 37-year law enforcement veteran.
Officers are called to protect not only the Capitol Hill community, where the department shares jurisdiction with Metropolitan police, but also millions of visitors from around the world, making them ambassadors as well as law enforcement professionals, Dine said.
“We came up with this phrase that we are kind of like America’s police department, because we’re serving the millions of people that come here, and we protect the legislative process and this iconic symbol of freedom,” he said. “These are highly trained folks with a very, very challenging job, because they can’t relax for a minute. They are always onstage, in view, literally a world view. We have a very unique, varied mission.”
Although Dine still lives in Frederick and plans to stay in town, he hasn’t had much time to keep up with things at home because of his schedule. But he said he’s managed to stay in touch with some of his old colleagues.
“You always miss the people when you leave an agency,” he said of his feelings about leaving Frederick police. “It’s kind of like a sports team, you always miss the players.”
Despite the long commute and grueling hours, Dine said he feels an enormous sense of pride that comes with the opportunity to leave his mark on a venerable agency like the U.S. Capitol Police.
“You turn that corner and see that building — and the thing is, everybody here says that, when they see that building, that iconic symbol of freedom and what it stands for — that’s just absolutely exhilarating,” he said. “It almost epitomizes what policing everywhere is all about.”