Members of the public can now apply to join two high-demand special units of the U.S. Capitol Police, whose ranks have thinned since the Jan. 6 riots.

Per an agency announcement Tuesday, prospective members of the Dignitary Protection Division, which protects members of Congress, and the Criminal Investigations Division no longer have to be an existing employee of the force. The federal law enforcement agency, which is independent from the Washington, D.C. and other police forces, has nationwide jurisdiction and more then 2,200 employees.

“Anyone who is interested in an exciting career as a special agent or an investigator with the USCP can now apply,” according to the Aug. 8 announcement. “Entry level agents and investigators can earn $81,311 during their first year and then $85,375 after they complete one year of required training.”

This opportunity is for candidates who want to to engage in engaging protective work early in their career, a spokesperson said. “They can just jump right into it.”

Like many of the armed forces, the Capitol Police is facing severe recruitment challenges. About one in five members of the force have military experience.

U.S. Capitol Police Chief Thomas Manger told lawmakers in May that 358 officers have left the department since the Jan. 6, 2021, attack on the U.S. Capitol. Both CID and DPD have struggled to retain officers, Manger said in his testimony.

“DPD is staffed at approximately 70% of the level of what it was prior to Jan. 6,” he said. “This is due to retirements, resignations and transfers.”

Internal candidates will still be permitted to apply, the spokesperson said, and the agency is maintaining pathways for outside federal agents or service members to transfer laterally and receive may commensurate with their experience.

Retirees can also come back into federal service by joining as “protective officers” who serve as drivers for the DPD, protect the homes of members of Congress and receive incoming threats. The salary for reemployed annuitants? $132,391.

A spokesperson told Federal Times that widening the funnel will allow for more interested candidates to apply, in turn helping the agency fill its ranks during a time when these jobs are hard to fill and when the need for security on Capitol Hill is heightened.

“With the national law enforcement shortage, the pandemic, Jan. 6 — just all these law enforcement agencies are having a really hard time recruiting,” the spokesperson said.

Caseloads have increased in the last couple of decades because actors on social media feel they can hide behind anonymity, said Mario Scalora, the U.S. Capitol Police’s consulting psychologist, in a statement in January.

In just the last five years, investigations into concerning statements and direct threats tracked by the agency have increased, from nearly 4,000 in 2017 to a peak of 9,600 in 2021 and 7,500 in 2022. And in recent months, lawmakers and staff have been attacked in their offices and at their homes.

“Although the number of threat investigations decreased in 2022, the caseload remained historically high,” the agency said.

Previously, the agency would pull candidates from its uniformed services bureau, the agency’s most “visible” team that stands post outside entrances and screens Capitol visitors.

“The Uniformed Services Division is strained, as well,” Mander said. “We have moved some officers from the uniformed services division over to DPD to address those staffing shortages.”

The agency said other benefits for agents and investigators include no forced mobility agreements and the opportunity to apply for Task Force positions.

Molly Weisner is a staff reporter for Federal Times where she covers labor, policy and contracting pertaining to the government workforce. She made previous stops at USA Today and McClatchy as a digital producer, and worked at The New York Times as a copy editor. Molly majored in journalism at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

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