Capitol police must become protective agency, inspector general tells Senate committee

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WASHINGTON – To successfully defend the U.S. Capitol from another insurrection like the one staged on Jan. 6, the Capitol police must evolve into more of a protective agency than a policing agency, the force's inspector general told the Senate Rules and Administration Committee Wednesday.

Michael Bolton ran through a series of reports his office produced, evaluating failures of the current United States Capitol Police (USCP) organization and operation and offering plans to correct them. Job one would be consolidating intelligence gathering and sharing while also increasing tactical training to help in the event of an attack, Bolton told the committee chaired by Democratic Sen. Amy Klobuchar of Minnesota. That would leave officers functioning more like Secret Service agents than beat cops.

"USCP failed to disseminate relevant information obtained from outside sources, lacked consensus on the interpretation of threat analyses, and disseminated conflicting intelligence information regarding planned events for January 6, 2021," Bolton said in a statement filed with the committee before his testimony.

Klobuchar summed up what happened that day by quoting an officer who called out plaintively on the radio amid the attack: "Does anyone have a plan?"

The answer, said Klobuchar, was no.

Rioters bent on forcibly overturning the election of Democrat Joe Biden failed, but not before the crowd breached police lines and broke through Capitol windows and doors. The insurgents, spurred on by President Donald Trump's false claims of widespread election fraud, briefly gained access to the Senate chamber and the office of Democratic House Speaker Nancy Pelosi before being forced out of the building.

To keep something similar from happening again, Bolton said the three USCP intelligence units must be combined into a single bureau. That would help avoid missed signals such as the failure of USCP intelligence officers to forward to their bosses a Jan. 5 FBI e-mail about chatter on social media calling for the violent Jan. 6 attack. Instead, intelligence reports about potential violence wavered from suspicion to dismissal.

"Interviews with USCP officials revealed a lack of consensus about whether intelligence information regarding planned events on January 6, 2021, actually indicated specific known threats to the Joint Session of Congress," Bolton said in his statement. "Certain officials believed USCP intelligence products indicated there may be threats but did not identify anything specific."

Others interviewed said the threats were specific, according to Bolton.

In addition to fixing intelligence lapses, Bolton said the Capitol police need to assemble a standing Civil Disturbance Unit that constantly trains together. Asked by Republican Sen. Shelley Moore Capito of West Virginia whether USCP might not also need dogs trained in crowd control, Bolton answered no.

Other gaffes from Jan. 6 were noted. Capito said only 10% of the force was up to date on weapons training.

Klobuchar pointed out that incorrectly stored protective shields shattered as officer tried to control the crowd. And in one case, a tactical unit could not get to its equipment because it was stored on a locked bus and the unit had no key.

So far, Bolton's office has recommended 65 changes to USCP operations. These include a fundamental change in training that focuses on protecting the capitol from violence, improving the purchasing and maintenance of equipment and overhauling logistics and planning.

The reforms Bolton is recommending are expansive and multifaceted. But they all aim to fix a single problem articulated to Bolton by one officer who fought the rioters on Jan. 6.

Members of the USCP felt that they had to defend the Capitol with "both hands tied behind our back."

Jim Spencer • 202-662-7432

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