Police union, Navy at odds over security staffing when D.C. Navy Yard attacked
(CNN) — One week after the attack at the Washington Navy Yard, the labor union that represents security forces at the installation and the U.S. Navy have widely differing views on whether the yard was fully staffed by the required number of security forces.
Both sides agree on one thing, though — that the staffing situation would not have prevented Aaron Alexis from entering the facility because he had a legal badge to get through the gate.
For its part the Navy will not disclose the exact number of forces on duty at the time of the attack but insists “all required installation security personnel were on duty,” according to a Navy official. The official says guard posts were fully manned by civilian federal police forces and there were two contract security guards inside Building 197, where the shooting occurred.
But that is at odds with the Fraternal Order of Police labor committee, which represents the federal police force.
Anthony Meely, chairman of the committee, tells CNN the staffing was below the required levels that morning. According to him, requirement calls for a minimum of 11 personnel, but there were only seven when the attack happened — five personnel at the gates to the yard, and two in cars or on foot, including the local chief of the police force.
Staffing levels at the yard “have been degrading” for years, Meely told CNN. “We are below even the minimum.” Meely said the union may file a formal complaint.
He said all reports indicate there were three personnel at the main gates on 6th Street as required but some of the other gates fell short.
He also said when the shooting first began personnel, including the chief, ran to the building and formed a five-man team to go inside. At that point they were told the shooter was on the fourth floor, but they quickly realized he was coming down flights of stairs shooting at each level. On the first floor, the team realized the shooter was actually behind them and tried to engage him at a range of less than 10 feet, according to Meely.
Meely also said the team had problems on the first floor with radios that did not work. The Navy says radios worked appropriately except in classified areas where the walls are shielded from any signals getting through.
The Navy also noted that all entry points to the navy yard were open and staffed, but within minutes “force protection Delta” was instituted, which is the highest level. That is when the gates were shut down, per lockdown procedure and only one gate remained open for law enforcement and emergency personnel.
The Navy said the first Navy Yard security person was at Bldg 197 in less than two minutes of the report shots were fired, and 30 armed personnel were there in under ten minutes.