WASHINGTON, April 20, 2015 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- The American Federation of Government Employees today applauded legislation introduced by Rep. André Carson of Indiana that would extend law enforcement retirement coverage to Federal Protective Service officers and make other improvements to the security at federal facilities.
"Yesterday, Americans marked the 20th anniversary of the terrorist attack on the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building in Oklahoma City, which claimed the lives of 168 people," said David Wright, president of AFGE Local 918, which represents more than 800 FPS officers. "Today, by introducing vital legislation to reform and expand the one federal agency charged with protecting federal buildings and their occupants, Rep. Carson has taken an important step in preventing a recurrence of this tragedy at another federal building in the U.S."
Federal Protective Service officers are sworn law enforcement officers who protect federal workers and visitors at 9,000 federal facilities nationwide, yet they do not receive the law enforcement retirement benefits provided to all other law enforcement agents within the Department of Homeland Security.
"FPS officers carry guns, make arrests, perform investigations, and apprehend criminals," Wright said. "They are law enforcement officers in every sense of the word, and they should be entitled to law enforcement retirement benefits."
Wright said FPS has suffered from recruitment, retention and morale problems because officers aren't under the same retirement system as other federal law enforcement officers, including special agents within FPS. Under law enforcement retirement rules, officers are subject to mandatory retirement at age 57 with at least 20 years of service, compared to age 60 with 20 years of service for other federal employees.
Rep. Carson's bill, HR 1851, would apply only to FPS officers hired after the legislation is enacted.
A separate bill by Rep. Carson, HR 1850, would make a number of other reforms to FPS to security at federal buildings, including:
- Increase the number of FPS employees to at least 1,870, including at least 1,318 in-service field staff, up from the current floor of 1,400 total employees;
- Allow FPS to deploy more law enforcement officers in the field by excluding desk-bound managers from the definition of in-service field staff;
- Clarify that FPS is the law enforcement agency responsible for protecting and policing all civilian, non-atomic federal facilities, not just those owned or controlled by the General Services Administration;
- Mandate a training compliance tracking system for contracted security guards;
- Require a report on the feasibility of converting all or part of the protective security officer workforce to federal employees;
- Clarify the right of FPS officers to carry their firearms while off-duty;
- Require agencies to install security countermeasures recommended by FPS.
"Security in and around federal buildings has been given short-shrift for too long," AFGE National President J. David Cox Sr. said. "This legislation is long overdue and would provide FPS with the resources it needs to carry out its mission."
The American Federation of Government Employees (AFGE) is the largest federal employee union, representing 670,000 workers in the federal government and the government of the District of Columbia.
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SOURCE American Federation of Government Employees