Soldier-turned-Congressman Michael Grimm has hired a former NYPD detective who will “act as a bodyguard” for himself and staffers in the wake of the Arizona shootings — but Brooklyn’s lone Republican member of Congress is apparently our only local lawmaker to take such a drastic step.
Grimm (R–Bay Ridge) said that the employee — who is one of 10 local staffers and has a military background — will act as a security guard at big events, plus help local war vets get available benefits.
Grimm’s spokeswoman did not make the freshman lawmaker available to explain his personnel decisions, nor would she give the guard’s name or salary. But the other members of Brooklyn’s Congressional delegation — all Democrats — said that they don’t need or want a personal shadow, despite the shooting of House colleague Gabrielle Giffords (D–Ariz.).
That decision appears to be motivated both by simple frugality, but also by the desire to avoid the appearance of seeming out-of-touch with their constituents:
• Rep. Jerry Nadler (D-Coney Island) — who up until two years ago kept his home phone number listed in the White Pages — said that having a bodyguard goes against the idea that members of Congress should be approachable. (Of course, he said that through a spokesman.)
“He wants to be in touch with the public, not removed physically or symbolically,” said spokesman Ilan Kayatsky, adding there’s no money in the budget for that, anyway. “He doesn’t feel the need for it unless the threats are immediate and undeniable.”
• Rep. Yvette Clarke (D–Park Slope) represents Crown Heights and Brownsville — two of the most dangerous patches of Brooklyn in terms of violent crime rates — yet she doesn’t have personal guard.
“There is always a measure of danger and risk in my position of being a public servant,” she said. “[But] I do not feel that I need any extra security.”
• Rep. Nydia Velazquez (D–Sunset Park) also does not have a bodyguard, though a liaison at her Brooklyn office would not say why.
• Rep. Ed Towns (D–Fort Greene) isn’t “going to change priorities in the wake of any perceived terrorism,” said his spokesman Julian Phillips. “It will be business as usual.”
• Rep. Anthony Weiner (D–Sheepshead Bay) did not return calls seeking comment, but he rarely travels with an aide, let alone muscle.
The attention to security comes after the Capitol police force urged members of Congress to report threats and appoint staffers to act as liaisons — or “security coordinators” — to law enforcement in their hometowns.
Some lawmakers said they often conduct meetings and town hall events with zero security. Others responded more dramatically, announcing they will pack their own heat in DC and hire more visible security at controversial events.
Grimm is in the latter camp.
The Operation Desert Storm veteran and FBI agent made news last Tuesday when he asked House Speaker John Boehner (R–Ohio) to provide “situational awareness training” for newbies on the Hill that would teach them security basics.
Grimm added later that House members who want to carry guns should do so. He declined to say whether he packs heat, though he used guns in his days as a G man and Marine.
And he’s certainly comfortable with security. At last Sunday’s ceremonial swearing in, three burly men wearing suits — presumably security guards — surrounded Grimm and his staffers.
“It’s not for myself but for all our volunteers and supporters,” Grimm said. “I want to ensure their safety, that’s why we bring in as much security as we do.”