Dunn jumps into race to lead Capitol Police union after post-Jan. 6 testimony

By | November 9, 2021

Capitol Police officer Harry Dunn, who delivered emotional testimony to Congress this summer about his response to the Jan. 6 insurrection, is challenging a five-year incumbent for leadership of the force’s union, according to an internal newsletter.

Dunn, 13-year veteran of the force, will face Gus Papathanasiou in a Nov. 18 election for head of the Capitol Police union. In his candidate statement, he wrote: “Simply and quite frankly, it’s time for not only a change, but a transformation.

“This is a big moment that we are in, and we need to change the way the Capitol Police Union is not only viewed, but more importantly operated,” Dunn wrote.

His entry into the race follows his searing recollections about responding to the Capitol attack, delivered to the Jan. 6 select committee at its first hearing in July, Dunn, who is Black, spoke about the racism and trauma he faced that day as racial slurs were hurled at him and he faced the onslaught of pro-Trump rioters at the Capitol.

“No one had ever, ever called me a n—– while wearing the uniform of a Capitol Police officer,” Dunn told lawmakers.

Dunn is not currently a member of the Capitol Police’s union’s executive committee, but said in his candidate statement that he was would rely on other members of the department and the rest of the union’s leadership if he were elected. His candidacy was first reported by Roll Call.

The contested union race comes as the Capitol Police and its officers attempt to chart a new path forward after the Jan. 6 attack, which injured scores of officers and left two dead in the days that followed. Another officer died in a separate car attack on the Hill in April, deepening the damage to the force’s physical and mental health.

The department has struggled to retain officers since then, though the department has pledged reform under the leadership of its new chief, Thomas Manger.

Papathanasiou’s pitch to union members includes his record of financial stewardship of the union, legal victories and his leadership after the Jan. 6 attack.

“We lost two good friends and colleagues in the line of duty and another to suicide in the past year. In response, the union under my leadership went into overdrive,” Papathanasiou said in his candidate statement.

The incumbent touted the millions of dollars in hazard pay, retention bonuses, mental health support and physical security upgrades that the department has received in the aftermath of the attack, in part due to a barrage of advocacy by officers’ union.

Papathanasiou also took the lead in organizing a February no-confidence vote in Capitol Police leaders, airing the union membership’s lack of trust following top department officials’ actions leading up to and on Jan. 6.

“As you know, one of the promises that I made was that we would not raise the biweekly dues of $20. I have kept this commitment and if I am reelected I promise to keep the current dues structure,” Papathanasiou pledged.

“I think my experience, record, and fighting for the Officers speaks volumes,” Papathanasiou told POLITICO.

Papathanasiou first joined the executive board of the Capitol Police union in 2009. He served as a shop steward and first vice chairman before becoming union chair.

Dunn and D.C. police officer Mike Fanone, who also testified to the select panel about responding to the violence on Jan. 6, have also criticized the local chapter of the Fraternal Order of Police union — as well as its national chapter — for what they saw as insufficient support for officers as some Republican members of Congress attempted to whitewash the Capitol attack.