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Capitol Police 'struggling to meet existing mission requirements,' union head says

Capitol Police 'struggling to meet existing mission requirements,' union head says
© Anna Moneymaker

The head of the Capitol Police union on Saturday said that the police force was “struggling to meet existing mission requirements,” in asking Congress for heightened security after a second fatal attack at the Capitol.

In a statement, chairman of the U.S. Capitol Police Labor Committee Gus Papathanasiou noted the U.S. Capitol Police Department is 223 officers short of meeting its authorized level of more than 2,000.

"We are struggling to meet existing mission requirements even with the officers working massive amounts of forced overtime," Papathanasiou said. "In the next 3-5 years we have another 500 officers who will be eligible to retire. Many of these officers could put in their retirement papers tomorrow. I’ve had many younger officers confide in me that they’re actively looking at other agencies and departments right now."

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Papathanasiou added the attack that occurred on Friday and resulted in the death of Capitol police officer William Evans has left his peers “reeling.” He described Evans as "well respected within the department" and said "his loss will not be forgotten." Another officer was also injured in the attack.

On Friday, a car rammed into the barriers surrounding the Capitol. The suspect then exited the car while wielding the knife and was shot dead by Capitol police officers.

"We have now lost two officers in the line of duty this year," Papathanasiou continued. "Another officer has taken his own life and we have 80 officers who were seriously injured in the insurrection. Some of those injured officers may never return to duty."

Officer Brian Sicknick died soon after the Capitol was breached on Jan. 6 after being "injured while physically engaging with protesters” according to Capitol Police. Another Capitol Police officer who responded to defend the Capitol, Howard Liebengood, died by suicide a few days after the attack.

Papathanasiou's appeal comes about one month after a report was released by a team led by Ret. Lt. Gen. Russel Honoré that made sweeping recommendations for the police force after finding it was "understaffed, insufficiently equipped, and inadequately trained” to protect the Capitol.

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Honoré's team recommended fencing and other infrastructure be installed, more officers be hired, body cameras and improving background checks for those who have access to the Capitol.

Papathanasiou asked that Honoré's recommendations be implemented though he stressed "our first priority has to be retaining our existing officers."

"We support General Honoré recommendations and had the opportunity to meet with him and his team the day before Officer Evans was tragically killed. As I explained to him, these improvements are critical, but our first priority has to be retaining our existing officers. There are immediate steps Congress can take to address this. The question is, will Congress do so?” Papathanasiou asked.