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I understand why Metro might need its own police force, and I can see why the Capitol and the CIA need their own uniformed police, too—but, really, why does the Government Printing Office need its own police force? And why are they carrying guns? Come on!
In 1860, Congress established the Government Printing Office (GPO), and for nearly 90 years the D.C. police officers patrolled the GPO’s main building, warehouse, alleys, and parking lots in Swampoodle—the neighborhood north of Union Station now rehabilitated as the more marketing-friendly NoMa.
But by 1970, as Swampoodle fell prey to a near-constant barrage of vandalism and violent attacks, Congress determined that “The Metropolitan Police Department has done the best it could over the years, but, unfortunately, it is not in a position to provide effectively for the safety of the property and people in the area, especially during the night hour,” according to the legislative record.
As a result, Congress authorized the GPO to create a special police force, stating that “the Public Printer or his delegate may designate employees of the Government Printing Office to serve as special policemen to protect persons and property in premises and adjacent areas occupied by or under the control of the Government Printing Office.”
The GPO’s 39-member, two-cruiser police force provides protection in areas where the bureau produces secure or classified documents, entrances, alleys, and parking lots around the clock.
And although GPO cops are armed and able to make arrests for violations of federal and District law, they have never fired a gun while interacting with a suspect, according to bureau spokesperson Veronica Meter.
Every Monday, the ‘Huh?’ Bub takes your questions. Got one?