Capitol Police union says acting chief ‘failed’ officers, Congress
The union representing Capitol Police officers said in a scathing statement on Wednesday that it had no confidence in acting Chief Yogananda Pittman and her leadership team after she testified a day earlier that top department brass knew there could be violence at the Capitol on Jan. 6 but failed to adequately secure the building.
“The officers are angry, and I don’t blame them. The entire executive team failed us, and they must be held accountable. Their inaction cost lives,” said Gus Papathanasiou, the chairman of the U.S. Capitol Police Labor Committee, which represents more than 1,000 officers.
The union said department leadership had “betrayed” and failed its force by not relaying intelligence to its rank-and-file officers so they could adequately prepare.
Papathanasiou also detailed the extent of some of those officer injuries that had not been disclosed before.
“I have officers who were not issued helmets prior to the attack who have sustained brain injuries. One officer has two cracked ribs and two smashed spinal discs. One officer is going to lose his eye, and another was stabbed with a metal fence stake,” Papathanasiou said in the statement.
Some rioters attacked officers with metal spears, baseball bats and bear mace. Police sources told The Hill that they found a can of brake fluid on one rioter.
“The disclosure that the entire executive team (former Chief [Steven] Sund, now Acting Chief Pittman, and Assistant Chief [Chad] Thomas) knew what was coming but did not better prepare us for potential violence, including the possible use of firearms against us, is unconscionable,” the union leader added.
“The fact they did not relay this information to the officers on duty prior to the insurrection is inexcusable.”
Five people, including Capitol Police officer Brian Sicknick, died as a result the hours-long insurrection, which occurred moments after then-President Trump urged thousands of his supporters to “fight like hell” and march on the Capitol as House and Senate lawmakers met to certify President Biden’s election victory.
Nearly 140 other officers are suffering both physical and emotional wounds from that day.
Then-Police Chief Steven Sund resigned after the deadly breach, as did two other officials tasked with securing the Capitol, the House and Senate sergeants-at-arms, Paul D. Irving and Michael C. Stenger. All three roles are now being filled by acting officials, including Pittman, who had been an assistant chief.
Testifying before lawmakers in a closed-door hearing Tuesday, Pittman apologized to Congress and the public for the massive security failure and made a stunning admission that police leadership had compiled intelligence at least two days earlier that armed militia and white supremacist groups had planned to do harm at the Capitol.
“We knew that there was a strong potential for violence and that Congress was the target,” she told House appropriators, who control funding for the police department.
Pittman said that Capitol Police had more than 1,200 personnel on duty on Jan. 6 but they proved to be “no match for the tens of thousands of insurrectionists.” She also confirmed earlier reports that members of the Capitol Police Board denied a request from Sund on Jan. 4 to declare a state of emergency and authorize help from the National Guard.
It’s unclear when a permanent police chief will be named by the Capitol Police Board — whose members include the House and Senate sergeants-at-arms and Architect of the Capitol — or if Congress will change the way that chiefs are hired.
In an email to The Hill, Papathanasiou made clear the union wants Pittman gone following the Jan. 6 insurrection, pointing out that both she and acting Assistant Chief Sean Gallagher were in charge of intelligence operations.
“They failed us and they failed Congress,” said Papathanasiou, who added that the union does not want the next chief to come from outside the department.
“The rank and file want Inspector Tom Loyd. He fought shoulder to shoulder with the troops. He’s the only one that works and communicates with the union, and he’s well respected by the troops.”
A Capitol Police spokeswoman did not respond to a request for comment on the union’s statement.