WASHINGTON, Oct. 23 (UPI) — A federal watchdog agency sent a stern warning to the U.S. Secret Service after two officers — one posted at the White House — were caught sleeping on the job this summer, creating “immediate or potential danger” to the officers and the people they protect.
The Department of Homeland Security’s Office of Inspector General said the officers were overworked and created a security risk.
“Fatigue from travel, overtime shifts, and long hours contributed to these incidents,” Inspector General John Roth said.
The sleeping officers were discovered when the inspector general’s office was touring facilities. Both officers were referred for discipline.
“We are concerned that the Secret Service’s staffing and scheduling process does not ensure that officers receive adequate breaks while on duty and time off between shifts,” he said. “We felt it was important to bring these issues to your attention immediately as these issues impact officer safety and the agency’s ability to meet its mission.”
According to the inspector’s report, one of the officers had worked some 60 hours of overtime in the two weeks before he was found sleeping. Secret Service staff said the officer’s overtime schedule was “minimal” compared to other officers in the unit.
“In at least one instance, the officer traveled from Kenya to Washington D.C. for a protective assignment and recorded a 36-hour shift, which included operational preparations for travel on a military aircraft,” the report said. “Even after the incident, records confirm that the officer traveled on three separate occasions for protective assignments over an 18-day period.”
The report found the second officer routinely worked 12-hour days. The officer said the heat and lack of water contributed to his fatigue.
Secret Service leaders objected to the inspector general’s findings, saying one of the officers took cold medicine which made him drowsy and the other did work a full schedule but most of it was sitting and sleeping while flying back from President Obama‘s trip to Kenya.
“The Secret Service does not agree with the OIG’s conclusion that these officers’ misconduct was due to fatigue caused by staffing and scheduling issues,” a Secret Service spokesman said. “We provided the OIG with factual corrections to their draft report. With these errors corrected, we fail to understand how the OIG could logically arrive at the same conclusion.”
The Secret Service’s Uniformed Division officers are responsible for providing security at the White House and the Naval Observatory, where the vice president lives. The inspector general’s office is reviewing the Secret Service after a string of embarrassments, including a fence jumper who made it inside the White House in 2014.