Capitol Police Share Post Jan. 6 Security Improvements
WASHINGTON — The United States Capitol Police detailed on Wednesday hundreds of tactical and operational improvements made since the Jan. 6 attack on the Capitol by a violent mob that attempted in vain to overturn the results of the presidential election.
The report was submitted by House Sergeant at Arms Gen. William Walker, Senate Sergeant at Arms Gen. Karen Gibson, Capitol Architect Brett Blanton and Capitol Police Chief Thomas Manger in response to recommendations made by the Office of the Inspector General. Every bureau of the USCP was modified in some way following the attempted Capitol siege in January 2021.
Some of the developments made to the Capitol Police force include updates to its processes for disseminating intelligence reports, increased command and control capabilities for the USCP’s Civil Disturbance Unit, and the recruitment of an expert in National Special Security Events to strengthen the force’s coordination during large-scale incidents. Further, USCP has since developed a “Critical Incident Response Plan” that includes procedures for rapid assistance from partnering agencies.
The report details the actions USCP took in its confrontations with the Jan. 6 mob as the force defended the Capitol while being attacked with various weapons including bricks, flag poles, pepper spray, pipes, bats and Tasers for over four hours. Many officers suffered injuries while engaging with the protestors and the Capitol Police Board officials cited the deaths of Capitol Police Officers Brian Sicknick and Howard Liebengood as having come “in the wake” of the attack.
Despite the tragic consequences of the Jan. 6 siege, it exposed significant insufficiencies in the force’s operational planning, intelligence, staffing and equipment, according to the text of the report. The OIG issued 103 recommendations as a result of the events that day, more than 90 of which were concurred with and addressed by the USCP and the Capitol Police Board.
Other steps taken in response to the siege include:
- The expansion of wellness and health-related services.
- Revamped recruitment and retention initiatives.
- Improved training regimens, including participation in large-scale joint exercises.
- Enhancements to the Capitol’s public information office.
- Engagement with the Washington, D.C., Metropolitan Police Department’s Civil Disturbance Unit, SWAT team and the D.C. National Guard.
- Standardized in-person briefings for uniformed officers during roll calls.
In the months following Jan. 6, USCP endeavored to refine and enhance the training of its officers and developed new approaches to physical, in-service and entry-level training that centered around front-line units and the Civil Disturbance Unit. The steps taken in these efforts include the expansion of staffing at the department’s Training Services Bureau, tactical positioning training for Uniformed Services Bureau officers and mandatory training in shelter-in-place and lockdown drills for both the House and Senate chambers.
USCP’s continued need for funding to support additional staff training was included in the department’s forthcoming Fiscal Year 2023 budget request. Additionally, the department has already made robust upgrades to its equipment for use in future large-scale events, which include:
- New riot gear and ballistic helmets.
- New shields of various sizes.
- Fire retardant suits and impact-resistant gloves.
- High-impact and splash-droplet eye protection.
- Amplified oxygen supply kits.
- Various versions of 40 mm launchers, less-lethal projectiles and pepper ball systems.
Despite significant staffing shortages that continue to hinder USCP’s operations, the department is cooperating with oversight committees about jurisdiction to develop a two-part strategy to address these challenges. The first part entails contracting security officers to staff posts the USCP has identified as suitable for security officer coverage. The second part centers around employee wellness.
Operational planning has been improved by employing a former U.S. Secret Service official with expansive knowledge of National Special Security Event planning and coordination. In addition, the National Guard will be on standby for ready access in future instances of security events.
USCP has designated “incident commanders” for large and high-profile incidents. It has also developed contingencies to anticipate gaps in communications with its officers. Incident command operations developed in response to the Jan. 6 siege are the department’s single greatest tool in ensuring no other large-scale attacks on the Capitol ever occur again.
“Based on the above security enhancements, and those that are ongoing, we are confident that the Capitol complex is more secure today than prior to January 6, 2021,” the CBP officials concluded in the report. “In addition, the changes and improvements made by the USCP [have] transformed the USCP into a better-prepared law enforcement agency. However, we cannot afford to be complacent. The safety and security of the U.S. Capitol, the Congress, and the legislative process remain our top priorities.”
Reece can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org