July 21st, 2007
10:47 AM ET
10 years ago

Congressman clashes with police

WASHINGTON (CNN) - Republican Rep. Christopher Shays apologized Friday for a loud and angry altercation he had a day earlier with a Capitol Police officer, saying he behaved "in a way I know was not appropriate."

Shays spokesman John Cardarelli said the incident took place at the West Front entrance to the Capitol during a rainstorm when the congressman was trying to locate a group of his Connecticut constituents who were coming for a Capitol tour.

An intern had gotten lost with the group and had difficulty describing where they were to Shays, who asked to speak to the police officer. The officer refused, saying it was against policy to accept phone calls while on duty.

Shays eventually found the group and went to them, but the police officer refused to allow them to enter the building through the West Front entrance, which is off-limits to tourists. Shays, Cardarelli said, grabbed the officer's lapel "to look at his name badge" and shouted at him.

"I know Chris swore, and he probably did use the f-bomb," Cardarelli told CNN.

Shays later told CNN he did not remember grabbing the officer's lapel, but he said he was angry and frustrated at not being able to locate the group and get them inside out of the rain.

"The one thing I do remember is wanting to know who it was - I couldn't see the badge well," he said. "I didn't make a fist - that i'm sure of."

"I shouldn't have argued with an officer" or touched his badge, he said, and "I regret doing it."

Shays also said that the point of his apology was "that I don't want anything that I did to reflect on" the officer.

Earlier in the day both Shays and Cardarelli said the characterization of the incident had been "overblown." Shays, in fact, said it "wasn't even close" to an altercation.

But after Capitol Police issued a statement on the incident, Shays issued a statement of his own with an apology.

"Although my focus was in trying to locate my constituents and get them to a dry location, I know I clearly could have handled the situation with the officer in a more professional and respectful way, and I regret I did not do so," Shays said in his statement, adding that he has "respect and admiration" for the "difficult mission" of the Capitol Police. "They deserve all of our respect and admiration, and I apologize that even for a few moments my behavior did not reflect my appreciation of that fact," he said.

The congressman added that he hopes to "meet with the officer and apologize to him in person" when he returns to Washington on Monday.

In its statement, Capitol Police said the officer "took offense to the manner in which the congressman spoke to him and said that the congressman also reached out and touched his name tag."

The officer filed "a courtesy complaint" against Shays, the statement said, prompting a meeting between Chief of Police Phillip D. Morse Sr., Assistant Chief of Police Dan Nichols and Shays.

Shays "acknowledged he acted inappropriately in the heat of the moment and took full responsibility for his actions," the statement said.

Earlier Lou Cannon, head of Washington's chapter of the Fraternal Order of Police, also said the incident had been blown out of proportion.

"Everyone's trying to make this sound like another Cynthia McKinney situation, but it's no where close to that," Cannon said. "Words were exchanged, but there was no striking, no hitting, no grabbing. There was no touching."

McKinney was a Georgia congresswoman in April 2006 when she was accused of assaulting a Capitol Police officer who did not recognize her at a security checkpoint. A grand jury refused to indict her, however.

She was defeated by DeKalb County Commissioner Hank Johnson in her bid for re-election at the Democratic primary in July 2006. Johnson won the general election in November.

Filed under: House
soundoff (47 Responses)
  1. Anonymous

    What an idiot...he could have been cited for assault on a police office. You can't grab someone like that, especially not law enforcement that is just doing their job.

    The Republicans are on a roll right now...another thug to add to the list.

    Doesn't remember grabbing the officer huh?

    July 20, 2007 10:20 pm at 10:20 pm |
  2. Michael Chapman, Nashville, TN and Washington, D.C.

    A few - far from all - Capitol Police officers tend to be a little sanctimoneous and have an overblown idea of their role. I'm surprised that several haven't been decked by Members because of their rude and less than helpful attitudes. Congressman Shays is to be complimented on his restraint.

    July 20, 2007 10:49 pm at 10:49 pm |
  3. JWH

    Wow! Chris is human. Next.

    We're redeploying from Iraq when?

    July 20, 2007 11:06 pm at 11:06 pm |
  4. John S.

    In American today, our Law Enforcement is our Judge, Jury and Executioner, so you better not step out of line or act human around them or you may end up dead!

    July 21, 2007 12:58 am at 12:58 am |
  5. Nikki, Dayton Ohio

    What is that last part all about...sounded like the regular Republican bullying tactic to me, 'Shays also said that the point of his apology was “that I don’t want anything that I did to reflect on” the officer.'

    Republicans...always trying to turn things around to take the heat off themselves.

    July 21, 2007 01:28 am at 1:28 am |
  6. eyeswideopen

    There is an obvious double standard with how the media chose to cover this. This is no different that what Cynthia McKinney went through, yet not only was she lynched by a demonic media, money poured into her district from out of state, filling the campaign chest of her opponent.

    In my opinion the media is the long-arm of Satan itself, a liar of unmatched proportions. Editors, writers, anchor persons use of language designed to cast doubt, distort facts and design information that keeps us divided as a nation. Black against white, Hispanic against black, white against Hispanic, you get the point.

    Those who consider themselves enlightened Americans who are confident that what they see IS what they see, not what some paid corporate stooge dictates from a studio prop set, must not fall victim to the true enemies of this nation. They (the administration and the media)should be put on trial for un-American activities (where's McCarthy when you need him?). They are cowering to foreign powers not located in the Middle East. Their minions don't even fully realize who they really are working for, and unfortunately it is nothing anyone can do but wait for it self-destruct.

    Sleep Well!

    July 21, 2007 02:13 am at 2:13 am |
  7. Carl J Speed II, Austin TX

    Someone ought to remind our elected officials in office that "leadership by example" works far better in the eyes of the public, than to resort to childish, self-important tantrums like this.

    July 21, 2007 03:01 am at 3:01 am |
  8. Da Troof, KC, MO

    This story would not be a story unless the officer was an official member of an Oppressed Minority Group Who Has Been Oppresively Oppressed by the Evil White Men.

    July 21, 2007 04:40 am at 4:40 am |
  9. Adam, San Diego, CA

    Hmmm. No grand jury investigation to decide whether or not to indict him on criminal charges? I seem to recall that's what Cynthia McKinney faced over a similar incident, and several GOP members were foaming at the mouth to punish her. What are we hearing from those same people now???


    Surprise, surprise...

    July 21, 2007 05:46 am at 5:46 am |

    He's exempt. As a democrat they have their own rules regarding conduct.

    July 21, 2007 06:37 am at 6:37 am |
  11. AW

    Congresswoman Cynthia McKinney confrontation with Capitol Police drew nation wide media attention, video coverage, and required a public apology.

    However, Congressman Shays is not recieving the same.

    This is a clear illustration of when you are Black and stand up and speak out your castigated, and when you are white in Congress justice is blind.

    Lets see what happens, prove me wrong.

    July 21, 2007 07:02 am at 7:02 am |
  12. Ken, Atlanta Georgia

    Congressman Shay needs some anger management classes.. This is Cynthia McKinney all over again. Another arrogant congress person thinking he entitled to be rude to anyone below his station. Let's all hope congressman Shay gets the same treatment as now EX congress woman KcKinney.

    July 21, 2007 07:27 am at 7:27 am |
  13. Jeff Williams, Brunswick, GA

    The Capitol Police Officer sounds like a real jerk, I'd be pissed at him too. I'm sure the policy on not taking phone calls means PERSONAL calls. HOW BOUT SOME HELP!

    July 21, 2007 08:07 am at 8:07 am |
  14. Terry Young Carlisle Ohio

    If it had of been George Bush or Dick Cheney had the samething happen to them, they would have said presidential powers overrides the security officer and the security office would have been fired ASAP and no questions asked!

    July 21, 2007 09:24 am at 9:24 am |
  15. GAC, MI, Florida

    Another RepubliCON using the F Word...just like Cheney when he told Senator Leahy to "F-himself" when asked about something that has since proven to be true. These neocons lie, cheat, steal...then go to church to get their daily dose of "forgiveness"...a new brand of thug...the RepubliCONS.

    July 21, 2007 09:28 am at 9:28 am |
  16. Todd, Washington, DC

    Any "normal" person and they would have been arrested, but those idiots on the Hill are treated like gods. Why?

    July 21, 2007 09:33 am at 9:33 am |
  17. Wes, Manassas VA

    Did Shays apologize for trying to itimidate and coerce a capitol police officer into breaking his oath of office? This officer is doing his best to follow regulations, to protect and defend, to enforce the capitol's security procedures, and shay's is trying to win brownie points with his consitituents and come-off looking like a big shot. What the heck? CNN, REPORT THE REAL STORY!!!!

    July 21, 2007 10:05 am at 10:05 am |
  18. Raymond, West Hartford, CT

    So the officer refused to talk to Shays on the phone, then refused to let him bring tourists into the building to get out of the rain. I think I would yell at him too. I understand he had procedure's to follow, but a little flexibility in judgement wouldn't be a bad thing either. Isn't the U.S. Capitol supposed to be the "Peoples" building. If a Congressman can't bring tourists inside to get out of a rain storm I think we have a larger problem than Shays yelling at a cop. Looks like we have sacrificed the freedom to access our Capitol in place of security. If anything, that is the story here, not a politician throwing a tantrum.

    July 21, 2007 10:06 am at 10:06 am |
  19. Bob Liggett, Reno, Nevada

    It's another case of "Lets take out our anger on the Police or Security Guard!". Christopher Shays is nothing but a two bit jerk and I hope someday someone with less restraint decks him when he grabs at their name tag. That would be worth getting fired over.

    July 21, 2007 10:17 am at 10:17 am |
  20. steve irvine kentucky

    Shays sounds like you pissed off libs maybe he should change partys lol.

    July 21, 2007 10:40 am at 10:40 am |
  21. Phil Evans, Jacksonville, FL

    One more example of double-talk. An elected official is asked to follow rules and objects; and is empowered to legislate law and order?
    The officer in question should be congratulated for not physically restraining this obnoxious ass. That would certainly have been within the confines of his duties.

    July 21, 2007 10:46 am at 10:46 am |
  22. Alex, New Orleans, LA

    The police are supposedly here to serve the public. Congressman Shays had every right to yell at a cop that was being a jerk just for the sake of being a jerk. I mean seriously, is there any reasonable person that thinks the officer would have been in trouble for taking the cell phone for a one minute conversation with a U.S. Congressman to advise him of where his constituents were on Capital grounds. This has everything to do with the officer being completely unreasonable and then hiding behind his badge when someone called him on it. That's why so many people in this country hate cops. Representative Shays could have been more professional, true, but he certainly doesn't need to apologize for justifiably expecting a public servant to serve the public.

    July 21, 2007 11:10 am at 11:10 am |
  23. Darren

    I'm not a bit surprised at Shays's actions. There are simply some in power who believe they are above the law. Apologies are easy. I wonder what he is saying privately.

    July 21, 2007 11:24 am at 11:24 am |
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