Biden signs bill streamlining emergency support for Capitol Police
President Biden signed a bill on Wednesday making it easier for U.S. Capitol Police to request emergency assistance from the National Guard, the White House announced.
The Capitol Police Emergency Assistance Act of 2021 allows the Capitol Police chief to request assistance from the D.C. National Guard or federal law enforcement agencies in emergencies without prior approval of the Capitol Police Board.
In a statement to The Hill, Capitol Police Chief Tom Manger said the department is “grateful for the additional safety measure,” adding that the agency fought for the legislation.
“It is not a responsibility we take lightly. The Department is grateful for the support the National Guard, as well as our federal, state and local law enforcement partners provide the National Capitol Region,” he continued.
The legislation, which Congress passed last week, is based on recommendations made in a report released by the Senate Rules and Homeland Security committees in June, following the Jan. 6 attack on the U.S. Capitol.
“Our report found that Capitol Police officers and their law enforcement partners were left alone to defend the Capitol and our democracy itself from violent insurrectionists, while the Chief of the Capitol Police was delayed in obtaining approval to request help from the National Guard,” Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.), chairwoman of the Senate Rules and Administration Committee, said in a statement.
“Now that this bill has become law, we can rest assured that the Capitol Police Chief has the authority needed to call for reinforcements at the Capitol swiftly in a crisis,” she said.
The legislation comes as questions loom about why the National Guard did not arrive at the Capitol until hours after the attack on Jan. 6 began. The June report found, among other things, that the Capitol Police Board’s lack of planning led to delays in deployments of the Guard.
The current chain of command structure calls for the police chief to ask the Capitol Police Board to declare an emergency, and then approve a formal request for the National Guard.
Former Capitol Police Chief Steven Sund, who resigned after Jan. 6, testified in late February that he asked for National Guard assistance from the House and Senate sergeants-at-arms — who are both on the Capitol Police Board — but was rebuffed.
“I think in exigent circumstances there needs to be a streamlined process for the Capitol Police chief, for Capitol Police, to have authority,” Sund said at the time.
Gen. William Walter, who was then the commander of the D.C. National Guard, also testified in March that his ability to deploy troops had been constrained a day before the attack.
He said he had received a memo stating that he’d need approval from the secretaries of Army and Defense before authorizing troops to respond to a civil disturbance.
–Updated at 3:17 p.m.
The Hill has removed its comment section, as there are many other forums for readers to participate in the conversation. We invite you to join the discussion on Facebook and Twitter.