Politics

Increased threats, overburdened officers: Capitol contends with preventing a Jan. 6 repeat


Manger says 135 officers have retired or resigned since Jan. 6, and the force as a whole is “probably 400 officers down from where we should be.”

The chair of the House select panel on Jan. 6, Rep. Bennie Thompson (D-Miss.), recently took stock of the challenges facing the Capitol during a police-led tour of sites breached by rioters.

“I am more confident, given what occurred on Jan. 6 of last year, that if something like that occurred this time, the likelihood of anything close [happening again] would be zero,” Thompson said in an interview. “The only question is whether or not we have put our intelligence gathering entities on a sharing path … It was the worst-kept secret in America that something was going to happen, and why our agencies did not pick it up in real-time and be better prepared is one of those weaknesses we have to make sure we fix.”

What has changed…

Manger can claim a number of notable improvements in preparation since he took charge.

Every Capitol Police officer now carries a department-issued phone that provides real-time emergency alerts. The phones address what became a crippling problem on Jan. 6: A flood of radio traffic that drowned out key messages and left officers feeling leaderless during the fighting.

The department’s riot control unit, singled out as deficient on Jan. 6, now has more diverse “non-lethal” gear to help with crowd control. Its intelligence analysts now regularly share threat assessments with rank-and-file officers, after many of those officers lamented that their leaders never informed them of prior intelligence about the potential for violence at the Capitol.

Wes Schwark, an operational planning expert who organized Secret Service security during major events, is now on board. Congress gave the department a needed $100 million cash infusion over the summer.

With little fanfare, Congress also passed — and President Joe Biden signed — legislation giving the Capitol Police chief the unilateral authority to seek National Guard assistance, eliminating a hurdle that delayed a request for help on Jan. 6, 2021. Thompson pointed to this policy change and noted the new leadership not just at the U.S. Capitol Police but also in the House and Senate sergeants-at-arms, who are responsible for coordinating security for their respective sides of the Capitol.


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