Watchdog: Capitol Police need ‘culture change’

The Capitol Police’s internal watchdog will testify before lawmakers Thursday about how the police force failed to prepare for the mob attack on Jan. 6 despite warnings ahead of time of possible violence. 

The report from the Capitol Police’s inspector general, Michael Bolton, paints a picture of a police force that failed to disseminate critical warnings about the insurrection to top leaders and even take basic measures to properly maintain equipment that could have helped protect officers from the violent mob.

Bolton is expected to tell lawmakers on the House Administration Committee that the Capitol Police needs a fundamental “culture change” to adequately protect the seat of American democracy and prevent another deadly attack.

“In regards to culture change, we see that the department needs to move away from the thought process as a traditional police department and move to the posture as a protective agency. A police department is a reactive force. A crime is committed; police respond and make an arrest. Whereas a protective agency is postured to being proactive to prevent events such as January 6th,” Bolton is set to say in his opening testimony before the committee.

The inspector general’s office is still in the process of providing a series of “flash reports” every 30 days reviewing the events of Jan. 6. So far it has completed two reports: one focusing on the intelligence-gathering process and operational planning, and another on the Capitol Police’s Civil Disturbance Unit that is specifically tasked with responding to protests.

Bolton’s team found that the Capitol Police failed to ensure that relevant members of the Capitol Police force received an FBI bulletin warning in time about the potential dangers on Jan. 6 and that there was a lack of consensus on how to interpret the intelligence. 

According to the report, a Capitol Police task force officer assigned to the FBI Guardian Squad Task Force emailed the FBI memo to an internal Capitol Police email distribution list “late in the evening” on Jan. 5. 

But an acting assistant chief told the inspector general’s office that the memo didn’t resurface until after the Jan. 6 attack. Both former Capitol Police Chief Steven Sund and acting Chief Yogananda Pittman stated that they didn’t see the FBI bulletin before the attack. 

“USCP failed to disseminate relevant information obtained from outside sources, lacked consensus on the interpretation of threat analyses, and disseminated conflicting intelligence information regarding planned events for January 6, 2021,” Bolton is expected to testify.

Among the potential solutions offered by Bolton’s report are requiring all Capitol Police employees to get security clearances and providing classified briefings on emerging threats and tactics. 

Bolton’s second report found that the Capitol Police’s Civil Disturbance Unit was “operating at a decreased level of readiness” due to a lack of standards for equipment as well as staffing concerns. His report recommends that the Civil Disturbance Unit conducts periodic safety inspections to ensure its equipment is not expired or defective.

For example, Bolton specifically recommended that the Capitol Police store riot shields “in the proper temperature-stable climate to prevent compromise of the riot shield’s life span.”

The report further urged that the Capitol Police “explore incentivizing” the Civil Disturbance Unit program and ensure that it completes quarterly audits that are provided to the unit’s commander. 

The Capitol Police said Wednesday in response to the inspector general report that it has made changes to its intelligence-sharing process and that it had already been working to replace aged equipment before Jan. 6. The force said that the work updating the equipment was hampered by manufacturing and shipping delays caused by the COVID-19 pandemic. 

But the Capitol Police acknowledged in a statement that “much additional work needs to be done.” 

Thursday’s hearing comes amid heightened security concerns around the Capitol complex, which includes the iconic Capitol and more than a half dozen other surrounding office buildings. 

President Biden and top congressional leaders just this week honored Capitol Police Officer Billy Evans, who was killed in the line of duty on April 2 after a motorist rammed his vehicle into a security barricade. 

Evans’s death occurred while the Capitol Police is still reeling from the trauma of Jan. 6, which resulted in the death of another officer, Brian Sicknick, and dozens injured.

And security will be extra heavy when Biden gives his first address to Congress on April 28. Pittman testified in late February that militia groups have “stated their desires that they want to blow up the Capitol and kill as many members as possible” during Biden’s speech.

Because the president will be on hand — along with Vice President Harris and members of the Cabinet and Supreme Court — the address will be given a special national security designation, allowing law enforcement to put certain restrictions in place. Congressional leaders said Wednesday they have confidence that law enforcement agencies will be able to protect the Capitol that day.

“Secret Service will take the lead on that event so it has a heightened level of importance and oversight,” said Rep. Pete Aguilar (D-Calif.), the vice chairman of the House Democratic Caucus who serves on the Administration panel. “We feel comfortable, I feel comfortable with the planning that will go into that event as a result of the president visiting the campus.”

The House hearing also comes amid an impasse between Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) and the Republicans over the composition and scope of a proposed independent, bipartisan 9/11-style commission to investigate the Jan. 6 attack. 

Pelosi is threatening to scrap the idea for an independent commission and instead go it alone and create a special select committee to investigate Jan. 6 unless Republicans agree to Democrats’ demands for more seats and a broader scope for the 9/11-style panel. 

House Democrats have been working on an emergency spending package to bolster Capitol security in the wake of the Jan. 6 attack. Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-Md.) on Wednesday declined to specify when that package will emerge, but predicted it will be soon. 

Rep. Roger Williams (R-Texas), who was injured by shrapnel during the 2017 congressional baseball shooting, said Congress needs to ensure Capitol Police have better training and equipment to defend the Capitol. He also said the board that oversees the police needs to embark on a nationwide search for a new police chief.   

“They’ve got to have training, they can’t slide on training, and they’ve got to have the right weapons,” Williams said. “It’s our job as legislators to give them the proper weapons and proper training, and part of the training is to be able to make the proper mental decisions.”

Mike Lillis contributed. 

Tags Capitol breach Capitol police Capitol riot Joe Biden Nancy Pelosi Pete Aguilar Roger Williams Steny Hoyer USPC

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