Capitol Police Watchdog Offers Damning Insights Into Response to Jan. 6 Attack

Police overlooked key intelligence warning of violent marauders heading to Washington D.C. on Jan. 6, the inspector general of the United States Capitol Police told members of Congress in the first part of a two-part hearing on police preparedness leading up and during the insurrection.

In this Feb. 2, 2021, file photo a placard is displayed with an image of the late U.S. Capitol Police officer Brian Sicknick on it as people wait for an urn with his cremated remains to be carried into the U.S. Capitol to lie in honor in the Capitol Rotunda in Washington. (Brendan Smialowski/Pool via AP)

WASHINGTON (CN) — In damning testimony Thursday, the inspector general for the U.S. Capitol Police told Congress law enforcement neglected credible intelligence that violence was imminent at the Capitol on Jan. 6 while simultaneously directing officers to use less lethal force.

Those actions by top brass, according to testimony from the U.S. Capitol Police Inspector General Michael Bolton, culminated in police being overrun, beaten, brutalized and in some cases, killed during the insurrection almost 100 days ago.

In a lengthy assessment not yet released publicly but with many details reported in advance of his testimony and then confirmed by the inspector general during his hearing before the Committee on House Administration, Bolton painted a grim picture of deadly unpreparedness.

There were no deliberate attempts internally to undermine rank and file police leading up to or on the day of the insurrection, Bolton testified.

Instead, he described a pervasive lack of training and resources that had cascaded into a long series of cultural and structural failures within the department.

“Heavier less lethal weapons were not used that day because of orders from leadership,” Bolton wrote in his assessment. It also noted that 40MM and 37MM grenade launchers were not provided to Capitol Police nor were sting ball grenades.

“Through our review, information was provided to USCP that heavier munitions and sting balls were not to be utilized based on information we had received that it could potentially cause life altering injury and/or death and if misused could result in those things,” Bolton testified Thursday.

That order, he added, came from the assistant deputy chief of the U.S. Capitol Police.  

Capitol Police did not return multiple requests for comment.

Having the sting balls would have “provided a better posture” during the attack, Bolton testified. Had it not been for the Metropolitan Police Department showing up with their own sting balls in tow, the outcome that day may have been even worse.

“It’s difficult to say if it would have turned the tide but it would have given them a better chance at doing what they need to do to defend the Capitol,” Bolton said before recalling how insurrectionists began to scatter once MPD launched sting balls into the crowd.

According to the New York Times — the outlet was first to obtain Bolton’s 104-page report — one threat assessment from Jan. 3 received by senior U.S. Capitol Police officials was blatant about the potential for unrest and bloodshed as lawmakers prepared to count electoral votes certifying Joe Biden as the new president.

“Unlike previous postelection protests, the targets of the pro-Trump supporters are not necessarily counter protesters as they were previously but rather Congress itself is the target on the 6th,” the assessment stated.

It would be just a mere 72 hours from the time that memo was issued before insurrectionists would stalk the Capitol complex, erect gallows on its greens and call for the heads of Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi and then Vice President Mike Pence as they stormed the building.

That same threat assessment warned explicitly too that white supremacists, militia and “others who actively promote violence” were often attracted to members of President Donald Trump’s “Stop the Steal” movement.

The movement was born from Trump’s repeated false assertions that he won the 2020 election despite zero evidence to support his claim and findings from his own administration’s Department of Justice that confirmed he lost.

The inspector general’s report known as “Review of the Events Surrounding Jan. 6, 2021, Takeover of the U.S. Capitol” notes how brittle riot shields shattered on impact thanks to weather rot. USCP had failed to keep them in climate-controlled conditions. Less lethal munitions at a nearby armory were also expired. And in one demoralizing incident, the report noted, riot shields were improperly stowed and locked on a bus just out of officers’ reach during the insurrection.

Officers reported that in the wake of the attack they tried to get to the bus and replace their crumpled shields but could not gain entry.

The tableau Bolton’s assessment depicts is “disturbing,” Representative Zoe Lofgren, a Democrat and chair of the committee said Thursday. The committee retains oversight of the U.S. Capitol Police and critically, has the power to determine funding for the department.

“Simply stated, Capitol Police were overrun. They weren’t prepared for an insurrection and I lay that blame at the feet of the Capitol Police leadership and the sergeant at arms and most likely, with the FBI. I don’t lay blame with rank and file police officers. They did their jobs,” Butterfield said.

But high ranking leadership had the intelligence and failed to act on it, he added. The North Carolina Democrat also said he was glad more lethal force wasn’t used against the mob that day.

“There would have been mass casualties — police and citizen casualties alike,” he lamented.

One of Bolton’s recommendations for Capitol Police was to stand up a dedicated, full time Civil Disturbance Unit. At present, that unit is only ad hoc. Bolton told lawmakers it was hard to incentivize people to join the CDU and mostly the pool officers from the uniformed services bureau to take up those assignments. One way to attract officers to it may be to offer hazard pay or bonuses for anyone who wants to join the unit.

In addition to fleshing out its intelligence analyzing and gathering capacity, Bolton was adamant that officers would need to be trained regularly, not just once a year or when they are first hired.

Thursday’s hearing did not wrap up in a single session due to lawmakers needing to cast votes on  unrelated matters but Chairman Lofgren asked Bolton to return.  

The inspector general will release another report about his findings into the Jan. 6 attack within the next two weeks. The Department of Homeland Security also has a report pending that is due May 1.

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