Capitol Police not adequately trained, equipped to handle violent mob on Jan. 6, IG tells Congress

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Inadequate training and equipment left U.S. Capitol Police officers ill-prepared to respond on Jan. 6 to a violent mob intent on blocking the certification of the presidential election, the inspector general for the U.S. Capitol Police Department told lawmakers on Tuesday.

At a hearing of the Committee on House Administration, Capitol Police Inspector General Michael Bolton summarized the latest findings and recommendations outlined by his office as part of an ongoing review of the events surrounding the Jan. 6 attack on the Capitol. The latest so-called flash report, which has not been released to the public due to sensitive information, is the fourth of its kind stemming from this review. It focuses on deficiencies with the Capitol Police’s Containment Emergency Response Team and First Responders Unit.

“I feel that it is of the utmost importance to continue exploring and reviewing the causes and failures that led to the horrific events when the Capitol was violently attacked,” Bolton told lawmakers. Overall, Bolton said his office’s review highlights the need for the U.S. Capitol Police Department “to move away from the thought process as a traditional police department and move to the posture as a protective agency.”

A mob of supporters of Donald Trump
A mob of supporters of former President Donald Trump battle with members of law enforcement as they storm the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021. (Leah Millis/Reuters)

Bolton explained in his written testimony that officers with the department’s First Responders Unit “are typically stationed on the outer perimeter of the Capitol where the general public makes first contact.” However, he said his office’s latest report finds that those officers were “not equipped with adequate less-lethal weapons such as the PepperBall and Sting-Ball weapon systems” which, Bolton noted in his written testimony, “would be effective assisting officers when confronting violent crowds similar to the ones encountered during the events of January 6, 2021.”

As an angry crowd of supporters of former President Donald Trump breached the Capitol complex on Jan. 6, officers stationed in the Capitol subway system were responsible for securing that area against rioters. However, the inspector general’s office found that those officers did not have the ability to secure doors and elevators, and were instead required to request such access from other facilities staff with the Architect of the Capitol. As a result, those officers were forced to resort to using furniture to disable the elevators surrounding the Capitol subway system.

Bolton also highlighted the department’s lack of adequate policies and procedures for securing ballistic helmets and vests strategically stored around the Capitol complex, allowing rioters to steal 12 of each on Jan. 6. Officers with the First Responders Unit were also not provided with advanced medical training, Bolton said. The inspector general pointed out that many of the officers at the Capitol on Jan. 6 were affected by chemical irritants, such as bear spray, which was deployed by rioters. Without a proper decontamination site within reach, those officers “ended up using water bottles or bathroom sinks to decontaminate.”

Pro-Trump supporters
Pro-Trump supporters at the Capitol on Jan. 6. (Samuel Corum/Getty Images)

As with the three prior flash reports stemming from the ongoing review into events Jan. 6, the Office of the Inspector General distilled its latest batch of findings into 21 specific recommendations for Capitol Police leadership, which were made public ahead of Tuesday’s hearing.

However, the Committee’s Chairperson Zoe Lofgren, D-Calif., pointed out in her opening remarks that some of inspector general’s findings were so troubling that Bolton had determined it was appropriate to alert the department immediately rather than wait” for the rest of the report to be complete.

In his opening statement, Bolton explained that his office had researched Northern Red, a private company that had been contracted by the department’s Containment Emergency Response Team, or CERT, to provide officers with firearms marksmanship and other tactical training.

The research revealed that Northern Red had displayed “questionable content on its website,” such as the slogan “For those who have hunted armed men, training is never the same.” Roll Call, which obtained a copy of the advisory issued by Bolton regarding Northern Red, reported last week that the company also displayed symbols associated with neo-Nazi and white supremacist movements on its website and Facebook page.

Since Jan. 6, the FBI has arrested multiple suspects with ties to white supremacist, far-right movements.

Bolton said that “while some of the content could have multiple meanings, their use at department-provided training could lead employees to feel unsafe or uncomfortable” and the department’s participation in training conducted by Northern Red “could also lead individuals to believe that USCP sanctions the use of such content.” Bolton said he relayed this information to the department in the advisory issued last month and “recommended that it review the appropriateness of utilizing Northern Red for further training.”

A Capitol Police spokesperson told Roll Call that the department has not used Northern Red since 2019 and does not plan to train with the company or at its facilities in the future.

“Acting Chief Pittman and all of the USCP leadership team takes extremist ideology seriously and are working on a plan to ensure that kind of cancer does not find its way into this department,” the spokesperson told Roll Call. “It has no place here.”

During a separate hearing before the House Oversight and Reform Committee Tuesday, FBI Director Christopher Wray testified that the day before the Capitol riot, the bureau shared an unverified report from one of its field offices about a possible threat with law enforcement partners, including the Capitol Police.

But under questioning from Rep. Carolyn B. Maloney, D-N.Y., the committee chairwoman, Wray acknowledged that the FBI shares some blame for the security failures on Jan. 6.

“Our goal is to bat 1,000 [percent],” Wray said. “And anytime there’s an attack, much less an attack as horrific and spectacular as what happened on Jan. 6, we consider that to be unacceptable.”

Wray said the bureau is currently reviewing its response to the Jan. 6 insurrection, but is not yet ready to share its findings due to ongoing criminal investigations. The FBI has nearly 500 arrests in connection with events of Jan. 3, and Wray said that there are “more sure to come.”

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