The Mercury News

New questions about Capitol security


WASHINGTON >> Shields that shattered upon impact. Weapons too old to use. Missed intelligen­ce in which future insurrecti­onists warned, “We get our president or we die.”

As Congress pushes for a return to normalcy months after the Jan. 6 riot at the Capitol, a damning internal report about the deadly siege is painting a dire picture of the Capitol Police’s ability to respond to threats against lawmakers. The full report obtained by The Associated Press before the department’s watchdog testifies at a House hearing casts serious doubt on whether the police would be able to respond to another large-scale attack.

The Capitol Police have so far refused to publicly release the report — prepared in March and marked as “law enforcemen­t sensitive” — despite congressio­nal pressure. Democratic Rep. Zoe Lofgren of California, who heads the House Administra­tion Committee, said last month that she found the report, along with another she had reviewed, “detailed and disturbing.” The inspector general who prepared it,

Michael A. Bolton, is scheduled to testify before Lofgren’s committee today.

The Capitol Police said in a statement Wednesday that the siege was “a pivotal moment” in history that showed the need for “major changes” in how the department operates, but it was “important to note that nearly all of the recommenda­tions require significan­t resources the department does not have.”

Bolton found that the department’s deficienci­es were — and remain — widespread: Equipment was old and stored badly; officers didn’t complete required training; and there was a lack of direction at the Civil Disturbanc­e Unit, which exists to ensure that legislativ­e functions of Congress are not disrupted by civil unrest or protest activity. That was exactly what happened on Jan. 6 when supporters of then-President Donald Trump violently pushed past police and broke into the Capitol as Congress counted the Electoral College votes that certified Joe Biden’s victory.

The report also focuses on several pieces of missed intelligen­ce, including an FBI memo sent the day before the insurrecti­on that then-Capitol Police Chief Steven Sund told lawmakers he never saw. The memo warned of threatenin­g online postings by Trump backers, including one comment that Congress “needs to hear glass breaking, doors being kicked in” and blood being spilled.

“Get violent ... Stop calling this a march, or rally, or a protest,” read one post recounted in the memo. “Go there ready for war. We get our President or we die. NOTHING else will achieve this goal.”

Bolton found that in many cases, department equipment had expired but was not replaced. Riot shields that shattered upon impact as the officers fended off the violent mob had been improperly stored. Weapons that could have fired tear gas were so old that officers didn’t feel comfortabl­e using them.

In other cases, weapons weren’t used because of “orders from leadership,” the document says. Those weapons — called “less lethal” because they are designed to disperse rather than kill — could have helped the police repel the rioters as they moved toward the Capitol after Trump’s speech, according to the report.

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