Capitol Police could soon be able to search your bags

WASHINGTON — The Capitol Police Board has approved a measure that would allow officers to search the possessions of those within the U.S. Capitol grounds.

Language approved July 15 says U.S. Capitol Police officers “may search packages, bags, and other containers in the immediate possession of individuals who enter and are within the United States Capitol Grounds for the purpose of detecting prohibited items.”

Under current law, Capitol Police need probable cause to conduct searches when they see suspicious people on the grounds.

On April 11, Illinois resident Leo Thornton shot and killed himself on the west front of the Capitol building. He had a backpack and rolling suitcase, and his items were not inspected before the incident.

Senate Sergeant-at-Arms Frank Larkin told CQ Roll Call that police would only conduct extensive searches if there’s “high-confidence intelligence” about a threat or if the Capitol was being attacked. Having the authority would provide extra safety for the grounds, Larkin told Roll Call.

The board — Larkin, House Sergeant-at-Arms Paul D. Irving and Architect of the Capitol Stephen T. Ayers — say they will work with their congressional overseers to develop signs to be placed around the grounds when the regulation takes effect.

According to Roll Call, the signs would be placed at the head of walkways, cab stands and near bus drop-offs.

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