Enforcers at Capitol declared as lacking
WASHINGTON — The U.S. Capitol Police force needs “cultural change” after the broad failures of the Jan. 6 insurrection, the top watchdog for the department testified Thursday, pointing to inadequate training and outdated weaponry as among several urgent problems facing the force.
Capitol Police Inspector General Michael Bolton has issued confidential monthly reports on the force’s missteps since the siege, when hundreds of President Donald Trump’s supporters broke into the building and sent lawmakers fleeing. In a 104-page report obtained by The Associated Press, he casts doubt on the force’s ability to respond to future threats and another large-scale attack.
Bolton told the House Administration Committee that the Capitol Police needs to improve its intelligence gathering, training and operational planning. The way the force views its mission also needs to change, he said.
“A police department is geared to be a reactive force, for the most part,” Bolton said. “Whereas a protective agency is postured, in their training and planning, to be proactive to prevent events such as January 6th.”
The Capitol Police has so far refused to release Bolton’s report — prepared in March and marked as “law enforcement sensitive.” But lawmakers discussed many of its findings at Thursday’s hearing and agreed there need to be major improvements. House Administration Committee Chairwoman Zoe Lofgren said the department needs to be stronger and more effective “not just to keep the Capitol and those who work here safer, but to keep the men and women who wear its uniform safe.”
Bolton found that the department’s deficiencies were, and remain, widespread: Equipment was old and stored improperly; officers didn’t complete required training; and there was a lack of direction at the Civil Disturbance Unit, in charge of ensuring that legislative functions of Congress are not disrupted by civil unrest. That was what happened Jan. 6 when rioters violently pushed past police and broke into the Capitol as Congress counted the Electoral College votes that certified Joe Biden’s victory.
Bolton’s report also focuses on several pieces of missed intelligence, including the force’s inconsistent information gathering and an FBI memo sent the day before the insurrection that then-Capitol Police Chief Steven Sund told lawmakers he never saw. That memo, included in the report’s appendix, warned of threatening online postings by Trump supporters, including one that said Congress “needs to hear glass breaking, doors being kicked in” and blood being spilled.
The Capitol Police said in a statement Wednesday that officials had already made some of the recommended improvements. The siege was “a pivotal moment” in history, they said, that showed the need for “major changes” in how the department operates.
Still, they said, “nearly all of the recommendations require significant resources the department does not have.”
House lawmakers are hoping to provide some of those resources in spending legislation that could be proposed as soon as this month. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said Thursday that the money would go not only to “hardening” the Capitol’s windows and doors but also to hiring and training officers.
Bolton told the panel that more money for training should be the highest priority.
“If you want to invest dollars, that’s the place to invest in, training,” Bolton said. “Training deficiencies put officers, our brave men and women, in a position not to succeed.”