Capitol police chief pledges to improve security after January 6

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WASHINGTON – While officers still reeling from the mob violence that invaded Congress a year ago, the U.S. Capitol Police Chief told lawmakers on Wednesday his department was taking action to address the shortcomings exposed by the attack and would implement more than 100 recommendations for improvement.

Chief J. Thomas Manger, who regained force in July, told the Senate Rules Committee that Capitol Police are already responding to 90 of 103 recommendations made by the agency’s inspector general. They include streamlining intelligence operations and purchasing much needed new equipment.

“We fully understand the need to restore confidence in our ability to perform our mission every day, regardless of the circumstances,” Chief Manger said in written testimony to the committee, which heard criticism from the agency on behalf of the Inspector General, Michael A.. Bolt. “The men and women of the United States Capitol Police proved their worth on January 6. I take full responsibility for restoring confidence in the leadership of the department. We have accomplished a lot and we still have work to do.

Mr. Bolton told the committee that only about 30 of his recommendations have been implemented. Chief Manger said 60 more are underway and he has appointed an inspector to ensure all are finally in place.

Capitol Police remain under tremendous pressure a year after being overrun by a mob of Trump supporters who stormed the building as Congress meets to count electoral votes to formalize Joseph’s victory R. Biden Jr. in the presidential election. About 150 officers from the Capitol Police, the Washington Metropolitan Police Department and other local agencies were injured in the violence, including more than 80 from the Capitol Police alone.

Subsequently, many of the agency’s failures were brought to light, even as grief, trauma and fear lingered in its ranks. The failures included findings that managers had not outfitted the force with enough riot gear or made an adequate plan for a potential riot, and ignored or neglected intelligence reports warning of the attacks against them. legislators.

New York Democrat and Majority Leader Senator Chuck Schumer spoke at the settlement committee hearing and praised the changes to the force. The top three security officials on Capitol Hill a year ago have all been replaced, and Congress has approved more than $ 70 million for police modernization.

“Today, the Capitol is much safer than it was a year ago,” Mr. Schumer said.

Even so, Mr Schumer said the “root cause” of the mob attack was still a threat to the country, as former President Donald J. Trump continues to falsely claim that the election was his. stolen by widespread fraud.

“What has this country become? Mr. Schumer asked.

Senator Amy Klobuchar, a Democrat from Minnesota and chair of the rules committee, said it was important for grassroots officers to hear the agency was undertaking reforms.

“It is important for the officers who were protecting us on the front lines – cuts to the face, the loss of friends and colleagues by suicide – to hear about the progress that has been made,” Ms. Klobuchar said in an interview, adding: “ In some cases, the insurgents had better equipment than them.

Ms Klobuchar noted that the job of Capitol Hill police officers had only become more difficult since the Jan.6 attack as the agency responded to more threats against lawmakers.

The chief executive said the agency encountered more than 9,000 threats last year, a large increase from the 902 threat investigations recorded in 2016, requiring an increased workload. At the same time, he said, the agency lost more than 400 agents compared to its operational staff.

The chief executive said the force has made key new hires and plans to ramp up recruiting efforts, including setting a goal of hiring 280 new officers each year for the next three years, as well as quickly bringing in other contracted security guards to release sworn officers. officers. He also described other improvements, including improving the way the department collects and shares intelligence and strengthening the Civilian Disruption Unit.

“We have new shields,” said Chief Manger. “We have ordered all new equipment for our civil disruption officers. “

He added that the force had prepared a 25-page security plan for Thursday’s anniversary of the January 6 attack.

A December 30, Department of Homeland Security intelligence analysis obtained by The New York Times concluded that “Threat actors will attempt to exploit the upcoming anniversary of the breach of the United States Capitol on January 6, 2021 to promote or possibly commit violence, but we currently lack reporting on a specific or credible threat. “

The report states that “the most likely threat of violence surrounding the January 6 anniversary comes from isolated offenders seeking to target perceived ideological opponents, political symbols or law enforcement.”

Sen. Roy Blunt of Missouri, the top Republican on the Rules Committee, pointed to legislation passed by Congress last year to allow the Capitol Police chief to unilaterally ask for help from the National Guard. He said similar reforms were needed to better protect police officers who were overwhelmed in the attack on Capitol Hill.

“These officers were the real heroes of January 6,” Mr. Blunt said.

Chief Manger’s testimony came a day after three police officers injured in the attack filed two separate federal lawsuits seeking to hold Mr. Trump accountable for the violence.

A complaint has been filed by Officer Marcus Moore, a 10-year veteran of the Capitol Police who invokes the Ku Klux Klan Act of 1871 to seek to hold Mr. Trump accountable for his “central role in the incitement the January 6 insurrection and the resulting uprising against the security forces defending the peaceful transition of power.

In his costume, Agent Moore remembers rioters pinning him against a wall, repeatedly punching him, spraying bear spray on his face, calling him racist slurs and threatened to take his gun and kill him with it. “We’re not going to die like this!” he remembers saying.

The other was dropped by two Washington policemen, Bobby Tabron and DeDivine K. Carter, who were relentlessly attacked outside the Capitol and in a tunnel on the west facade of the building that police now call the Tunnel of the death. They were beaten with punches, flag poles and projectiles and sprayed with chemicals, depending on their combination. Officers Tabron and Carter were unsure whether they would return home alive, according to the lawsuit, as they fought to defend the Capitol.

Their lawsuit also cites the Ku Klux Klan law and claims that Mr. Trump – who has told his supporters to “fight much harder” and “use force” at a rally on January 6 while urging them to visit Capitol Hill – violated laws against inciting a riot, disorderly conduct, civil conspiracy and aiding and abetting bodily harm.

The lawsuits bring to at least six the number of people filed against Mr. Trump by people who were on Capitol Hill during the attack.

Lawyers for the former president have argued that Mr. Trump should not be held responsible for the actions of the mob, citing both his right to free speech and a claim for presidential immunity.

“Attempting to hold a political leader vicariously accountable for the actions of others as a result of constitutionally protected political speech would contradict the well-established precedent of the Supreme Court’s First Amendment,” said Mr. Trump’s attorney, Jesse R. Binnall, wrote in response to a costume. “Even if the speech in question was not covered by the highest presumption of legal protection, the claims of the plaintiffs are excluded by absolute presidential immunity.”

Oral argument is scheduled for Jan. 10 in the lawsuit brought against Mr. Trump by Representative Eric Swalwell, Democrat of California; Representing Bennie Thompson, Democrat of Mississippi; and Constables James Blassingame and Sidney Hemby of the Capitol Police.

Eileen Sullivan contributed reports.

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