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Capitol Police Board: Fully Incorporating Leading Governance Practices Would Help Enhance Accountability, Transparency, and External Communication

GAO-17-112 Published: Feb 07, 2017. Publicly Released: Feb 07, 2017.
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What GAO Found

The Capitol Police Board (Board) has wide-ranging responsibilities and according to experts with knowledge of law enforcement oversight bodies, like civilian oversight boards, the Board's scope is unique by comparison. For example, the Board has authority for security decisions, as well as certain human capital and personnel matters, including the approval of officer terminations.

In 2013, the Board adopted a Manual of Procedures (Manual) that references its operations and establishes protocols for outreach with the Congressional committees and leadership offices (stakeholders) with whom the Board interacts. This Manual fully incorporated one and partially incorporated five of the six leading practices that facilitate the principles of accountability, transparency, and effective external communication; however, the Board has not always implemented these practices, such as notifying stakeholders that certain information on the Board's decisions and operations is available to them.

The Extent to Which the Capitol Police Board's Manual of Procedures Incorporates Accountability, Transparency, and Communication Leading Practices

Leading Practice

Connection to accountability, transparency, and communication

Extent to which Manual incorporates the practice

Define roles, responsibilities, and areas of authority

Promotes accountability

Oversee functions of the corporation (Capitol Police)

Conduct performance evaluations and reviews

Develop processes for internal functions of the board

Disclose information to stakeholders

Fosters transparency

Develop processes for communication with stakeholders

Enhances effective external communication

● Fully incorporated ◑ Partially incorporated ○ Not incorporated
Source: GAO analysis. | GAO-17-112
Note: A determination of “fully incorporated” means that procedures in the Manual align with all activities associated with the leading practice; “partially incorporated” means that procedures in the Manual align with some activities associated with the leading practice; and “not incorporated” means that no provisions in the Manual align with any activities associated with the leading practice.

Some stakeholders raised concerns, such as the Board not adequately soliciting their input, and suggested adjustments to enhance the Board's approaches. Board officials told us that the Manual has not incorporated some leading practices, in part because they address activities beyond statutory requirements. Leading practices note that effective governing bodies make commitments to stakeholders that exceed basic requirements, and GAO found the Manual includes activities that go beyond what is statutorily prescribed. Working to fully incorporate leading practices into its Manual and operations would help the Board enhance its accountability, transparency, and effective external communication with stakeholders.

Why GAO Did This Study

The Board is charged with overseeing and supporting the Capitol Police. GAO was asked to review the Board's operations, including the Board's accountability and level of communication. This report examines (1) the roles and responsibilities of the Board and the Police Chief and the comparability of the Board's scope to other law enforcement oversight entities; (2) the extent to which the Board's Manual incorporates leading practices for accountability, transparency, and external communication, and how the Board implements these practices; and (3) Congressional stakeholder perspectives on the Board's approaches and adjustments to enhance them.

To complete this review, GAO analyzed relevant statutes and Board governing documents and operations. GAO also used internal control and corporate governance standards to articulate the key principles of accountability, transparency, and effective external communication; identified six leading practices that facilitate these principles; and analyzed the Board's Manual against each. GAO also interviewed Board members and staff, Congressional stakeholders, and experts selected for their knowledge of law enforcement oversight.

Skip to Recommendations


GAO recommends that the Board revise its Manual to fully incorporate leading practices, including evaluating its performance, and engage with stakeholders and incorporate their views, as appropriate, on any changes. The Board did not state whether it concurred with the recommendation.

Recommendations for Executive Action

Agency Affected Recommendation Status
Capitol Police Board To ensure that the Capitol Police Board's current and any new approaches help enhance accountability, transparency, and effective external communication with its stakeholders, the Board should revise its Manual of Procedures to fully incorporate each of the leading practices for internal control and governance standards discussed in this report. In so doing, the Board should engage stakeholders in the revision process, such as by soliciting their input on any non-statutory changes that could particularly address the concerns stakeholders have raised, and incorporating their views as appropriate. If, in making revisions to its Manual, the Board determines that statutory changes may be helpful to enhance Board operations, then the Board should also engage with stakeholders on such proposed changes.
Closed – Implemented
In December 2021, the Board finalized its updates to its Manual and briefed its congressional stakeholders on the changes. We reviewed the Manual to assess its inclusion of leading practices, and, in the Spring and Summer of 2022, we conferred with Congressional stakeholders to understand their knowledge of the Manual's updates and the scope and nature of their interactions with the Board. Based on our reviews of the Manual and the information we collected from Congressional stakeholders about their engagement with the Board, the Board has complied with the recommendation, and we will close it as implemented.

Full Report

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