Capitol police issue security guide

As the Capitol Hill community continues to cope with the shooting deaths of two Capitol Police officers killed last month in the line of duty by a gunman believed to be a paranoid schizophrenic, the Capitol Police are circulating a fact sheet on security to offices throughout the Capitol.

Titled, "Guide to Security Awareness: Abnormal Personalities," the fact sheet is meant to help staffers identify, deal with and, if necessary, summon the police to respond to mentally ill visitors. The memo was also delivered to the shops located in the basement of the Capitol, as well as to the various press galleries.

Sgt. Dan Nichols, the Capitol Police spokesman, said the fact sheet is taken from the "Guide to Security Awareness" booklet--last updated earlier this year--that the Capitol Police public information office distributes from time to time to congressional offices. Nichols said his office sometimes circulates particular fact sheets from the booklet in response to particular events.

For instance, he said that after letter bombs were sent to the National Press Club offices of the Lebanese newspaper Al-Hayat last year, the Capitol Police distributed the fact sheet on recognizing suspicious packages.

The latest memo states that "individuals with problems, real or perceived, are drawn to places of power." One officer who patrols the Capitol and helped distribute the memo Tuesday morning wryly observed that because the Capitol dome has a metal framework, it acts as a "magnet for nutballs." On a more serious note, the officer said that at the Capitol "we get our share [of mentally ill visitors]--every day, sometimes twice a day."

Although there also are a number of "regulars" who normally do not present a danger to anyone, the officer noted that "even they can go off." The fact sheet lists a number of signs to look for "to determine whether someone is abnormal," including: he thinks people are plotting against him; he talks to himself or hears voices; he sees visions, smells strange odors or has peculiar tastes; he has bodily ailments that are not possible; he behaves in a way that is dangerous to himself or others. The memo uses only the masculine pronoun.

To deal with the individual, the memo's suggestions include: do not react to outbursts or increase the level of excitement; ensure personal safety; establish rapport; meet any concrete needs; and remain patient.

Finally,the memo advises to "always be prepared for the unexpected by being totally familiar with the duress alarm located in your office." And when all else fails, offices are advised to call the emergency phone number of the Capitol Police, 224-0911.

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