Los Angeles Times

Capi­tol Po­lice’s treat­ment of Guard troops ques­tioned

- By No­maan Mer­chant, Lolita Bal­dor and Aamer Madhani Mer­chant, Bal­dor and Madhani write for the Associated Press. Crime · U.S. News · Incidents · Politics · Washington · Air National Guard · United States of America · United States Capitol Police · Joe Biden · Daniel Garodnick · White House Press Secretary · Delaware · Jim Inhofe · Republican Party (United States) · United States Senate · Ohio · Maryland · Jill Biden · Tim Ryan · National Guard Bureau · Andrews, SC

WASH­ING­TON — Images of Na­tional Guard soldiers camped in a cold park­ing garage af­ter be­ing sent to pro­tect Wash­ing­ton sparked new calls Fri­day for in­ves­ti­ga­tions of the U.S. Capi­tol Po­lice, now fac­ing al­le­ga­tions that the agency evicted troops sent to help af­ter its fail­ure to stop ri­ot­ing mobs two weeks ago.

Pres­i­dent Bi­den ex­pressed his “dis­may” Fri­day morn­ing to Gen. Daniel R. Hokan­son, chief of the Na­tional Guard, about how the troops had been treated, White House Press Sec­re­tary Jen Psaki said. Mem­bers of both par­ties were irate about re­ports that guards­men were forced to take rest breaks out­side the Capi­tol Build­ing. About 25,000 Guard mem­bers from across the coun­try de­ployed to help se­cure Bi­den’s in­au­gu­ra­tion, which went off with only a few mi­nor ar­rests.

Psaki said the pres­i­dent thanked Hokan­son and the Guard for their help the last few weeks and of­fered his as­sis­tance if Hokan­son needed any­thing. First Lady Jill Bi­den vis­ited Guard troops out­side the Capi­tol on Fri­day, bring­ing them cook­ies and thank­ing them for pro­tect­ing her fam­ily. She noted that the Bi­dens’ late son, Beau, served in the Delaware Army Na­tional Guard.

A jit­tery Wash­ing­ton had re­quested aid af­ter the Jan. 6 riot in which po­lice were badly out­num­bered, lock­ing down the na­tion’s cap­i­tal with soldiers, po­lice and bar­ri­cades. Law­mak­ers and Bi­den took pains to thank se­cu­rity forces for their ef­fort. All 25,000 Guard mem­bers were vet­ted by the FBI over con­cerns of an in­sider at­tack, and a dozen were re­moved from their posts, in­clud­ing two who made ex­trem­ist state­ments about the in­au­gu­ra­tion.

The Guard and Capi­tol

Po­lice is­sued a joint state­ment Fri­day af­ter­noon say­ing they have now co­or­di­nated to es­tab­lish “ap­pro­pri­ate spa­ces” within con­gres­sional build­ings for on-duty breaks. The state­ment noted that off-duty troops have ho­tel rooms or “other com­fort­able ac­com­mo­da­tions.”

The Na­tional Guard said it orig­i­nally moved troops out of the Capi­tol Ro­tunda and other spa­ces to garages at the be­hest of the Capi­tol Po­lice. The guards­men were al­lowed back in­side late Thurs­day af­ter re­ports were widely shared of the con­di­tions in the garages, with few bath­rooms and lit­tle cov­er­ing from the cold.

Capi­tol Po­lice in­terim Chief Yo­gananda Pittman is­sued a state­ment Fri­day say­ing her agency “did not in­struct the Na­tional Guard to va­cate the Capi­tol Build­ing fa­cil­i­ties.”

But two Capi­tol Po­lice of­fi­cers who spoke on con­di­tion of anonymity con­tra­dicted her state­ment, say­ing they were told de­part­ment higher-ups had or­dered the guards­men out. It was un­clear why. The two of­fi­cers spoke on con­di­tion of anonymity be­cause they were not au­tho­rized by the de­part­ment to speak.

Sen. James M. In­hofe (ROkla.) said that “mul­ti­ple mem­bers of mil­i­tary lead­er­ship” had told him a uni­formed Capi­tol Po­lice of­fi­cer told them to leave the Capi­tol Vis­i­tor Cen­ter.

“The troops didn’t move on their own,” said In­hofe, the top Repub­li­can on the Se­nate Armed Ser­vices Com­mit­tee. He added: “This isn’t a blame game, but I want to know what hap­pened so we can make sure it can’t hap­pen again.”

Rep. Tim Ryan (D-Ohio) who leads a sub­com­mit­tee that over­sees the Capi­tol Po­lice bud­get, said Pittman and other com­man­ders would even­tu­ally need to tes­tify about their de­ci­sion­mak­ing.

“If the Capi­tol Po­lice in any way, shape or form pushed the Guard out into a cold garage, then there’s go­ing to be hell to pay,” Ryan said. “We’re al­ready try­ing to reestab­lish trust with the Capi­tol Po­lice, and we’ve got to fig­ure out ex­actly what hap­pened.”

The Na­tional Guard Bureau said Thurs­day that of the nearly 26,000 Guard troops de­ployed to D.C. for the in­au­gu­ral, only 10,600 re­main on duty. The bureau said the Guard is help­ing states with co­or­di­na­tion and the logistics so that troops can get home.

Thou­sands of Guard troops from all across the coun­try poured into D.C. by the planeload and bus­load late last week, in re­sponse to es­ca­lat­ing se­cu­rity threats and fears of more ri­ot­ing. Mil­i­tary air­craft crowded the run­ways at Joint Base An­drews in Mary­land, car­ry­ing Guard mem­bers into the re­gion in the wake of the deadly in­sur­rec­tion at the U.S. Capi­tol.

Guard forces were scat­tered around the city, help­ing to se­cure the Capi­tol, mon­u­ments, Metro en­trances and the perime­ter of cen­tral D.C.

Some lo­cal law en­force­ment agen­cies have asked for con­tin­ued as­sis­tance from the Guard, so roughly 7,000 troops are ex­pected to stay in the re­gion through the end of the month.

The in­sur­rec­tion high­lighted mul­ti­ple fail­ures by the Capi­tol Po­lice to pre­pare for what be­came a vi­o­lent mob over­run­ning parts of the build­ing. Of­fi­cers who spoke to the Associated Press on con­di­tion of anonymity said there was lit­tle plan­ning be­fore the riot or guid­ance from de­part­ment lead­ers once the riot be­gan.

The riot left five dead, in­clud­ing Capi­tol Po­lice Of­fi­cer Brian Sick­nick, who was re­port­edly hit in the head by a fire ex­tin­guisher. An­other of­fi­cer died in an ap­par­ent sui­cide af­ter the at­tack.

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