National Security

Capitol Police head describes agency unprepared for mass attacks


Acting Capitol Police Chief Yogananda Pittman plans to tell lawmakers that the agency was not sufficiently prepared for the Jan. 6 riot primarily due to a lack of information from the intelligence community.

Pittman plans to tell House members in a hearing Thursday that Capitol Police took a number of steps to prepare for the events of Jan. 6, but officers were “unsure” of the rules for using lethal force and didn’t properly institute lockdown procedures during the insurrection.

In an opening statement submitted ahead of the House Appropriations subcommittee hearing, Pittman said the agency will implement training to “refresh” officers on its lethal force policy and has “already begun to diversify our less lethal capabilities” after the force’s resources proved insufficient in dispersing the crowd of former President Trump’s supporters last month.

“The Department’s preparations were based on the information it gathered from its law enforcement partners like the FBI and others within the intelligence community, none of which indicated that a mass insurrection of this scale would occur at the U.S. Capitol on January 6th,” she wrote.

“But at the end of the day, the USCP succeeded in its mission. It protected Congressional Leadership. It protected Members. And it protected the Democratic Process,” she added later, using an abbreviation for U.S. Capitol Police.

The remarks largely mirror those given by Pittman’s former boss, ex-Capitol Police Chief Steven Sund, who resigned following the attack.

“A clear lack of accurate and complete intelligence across several federal agencies contributed to this event, and not poor planning by the United States Capitol Police,” Sund told lawmakers in a Senate hearing on Tuesday, blaming the intelligence community for failing to relay that a violent attack was being planned across multiple states.

“We properly planned for mass demonstration with possible violence. What we got was a military-style coordinated assault on my officers and a violent takeover of the Capitol Building.”

For her part, Pittman took pains to highlight the efforts Capitol Police took ahead of the attacks.

Pittman plans to testify that Capitol Police made preparations after receiving intelligence that militia members and white supremacist groups would protest the congressional proceedings to certify the presidential election results. She’ll also testify that “a sense of desperation and disappointment” among attendees meant there was more potential for violence.

In her planned testimony, Pittman repeatedly refers to a Jan. 3 report produced by the department’s Intelligence and Interagency Coordination Division that warned of armed protesters who would be focusing their efforts on the Capitol and the 2020 vote certification.

“Based on the assessment, the Department understood that this demonstration would be unlike the previous demonstrations held by protesters with similar ideologies in November and December 2020,” Pittman wrote in her opening statement.

“This event was different because all judicial remedies for opposing election results had been exhausted and the only way for their candidate to win was for Congress to reject the Electoral College results. Thus the scheduled demonstrations were intended to pressure Congress.”

But an opening statement from acting House Sergeant at Arms Timothy P. Blodgett stressed the Capitol Police intelligence, and not just those of federal agencies, was also lacking.

“Bad information, conflicting information or missing information leads to poor decisions,” he wrote.

“The Capitol Police listed demonstrations and categorized the probability of civil disobedience or arrests as “remote, highly improbable, or improbable” for each of those days and for every single demonstration,” he added later. 

“So, while the January 3rd Assessment notes a possibility of violence against Congress itself, every single subsequent Daily Intelligence Report indicates only remote, highly improbable, or improbable chance of civil disobedience or arrests.”

Capitol Police took a number of steps ahead of Jan. 6, including increasing the size of security details for congressional leaders, deploying countersurveillance agents all over the city to observe the crowd of Trump supporters, and posting additional police officers at barricades. Ultimately, the efforts weren’t enough to control the angry mob. 

Pittman’s statement comes as the Capitol Police officer union has continued to call for her resignation.

“The current leadership has lost the trust of the front-line officers. We know what these individuals failed to do prior to the insurrection, and we know what they failed to do during the insurrection. The trust they have lost, cannot be regained. If we are going to address the systemic failures that led to the security breach, we need new leaders,” Union Chairman Gus Papathanasiou said in a statement Tuesday. 

Tags Capitol breach Capitol insurrection Capitol riot Donald Trump
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