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Watchdog: Capitol Police Need To Pivot From Reactionary To Protection Posture

A detailed review of the Jan. 6 insurrection by the U.S. Capitol Police's inspector general is set for discussion at a House hearing on Thursday.
Jon Cherry
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A detailed review of the Jan. 6 insurrection by the U.S. Capitol Police's inspector general is set for discussion at a House hearing on Thursday.

Updated April 14, 2021 at 3:27 PM ET

U.S. Capitol Police Inspector General Michael Bolton will tell a congressional committee in prepared testimony Thursday that the agency must shift away from its current approach to deal with rising threats to the Capitol.

It's one of many concerns to address a litany of alleged internal failures that hampered the agency's response to the Jan. 6 attack and were documented in an explosive report issued by Bolton in March and obtained by NPR and other media outlets.

"We see that the Department needs to move away from the thought process as a traditional Police Department and move to the posture as a Protective Agency," Bolton says in his nine-page prepared remarks posted by the House Administration Committee on Wednesday afternoon. "A police department is a reactive force. A crime is committed; police respond and make an arrest. Whereas, a Protective Agency is postured to being proactive to prevent events such as January 6th."

The testimony comes in the wake of his detailed, 104-page review launched in the wake of the January siege. NPR reviewed the report on Tuesday ahead of its public discussion as part of a committee hearing on Thursday.

The panel's chair, Rep. Zoe Lofgren, called for the hearing after receiving a briefing from Bolton last month. Lofgren, D-Calif., said the report provides "detailed and disturbing findings and important recommendations."

The full report, of which only portions have been released so far, said officers were hindered by leadership decisions and equipment deficiencies that left the force ill-prepared to respond to the Jan. 6 insurrection, according to a new watchdog report, which found that some advance intelligence offered a "more alarming" warning ahead of the day's events.

Bolton's review also outlines a wide range of concerns, including inefficiencies facing Capitol Police when it comes to a fragmented approach to tracking intelligence and a lack of related training.

Ahead of the insurrection, the report said Capitol Police did not place enough emphasis on threat analysis and assessments of threats. An analysis by the agency's own intelligence division offered somewhat conflicting details ahead of Jan. 6, with one section offering what Bolton called "more alarming language" than another.

"Supporters of the current president see January 6, 2021, as the last opportunity to overturn the results of the presidential election," the analysis said in one section, according to Bolton's report. "This sense of desperation and disappointment may lead to more of an incentive to become violent."

It goes on to say, "Congress itself is the target on the 6th."

Bolton's review also faults Capitol Police for not prioritizing its Civil Disturbance Unit — also known as its CDU. The division plays a critical role in the response to such emergencies, but the majority of its officers had not completed required annual training for the last few years, the report said.

"USCP did not have adequate policies and procedures for CDU defining its responsibilities, duties, composition, equipment, and training," the report said. "CDU was operating at a decreased level of readiness as a result of a lack of standards for equipment, deficiencies noted from the events of January 6, 2021, a lapse in certain certifications, an inaccurate CDU roster, staffing concerns for the unit, quarterly audits that were not performed, and property inventories not in compliance with equipment."

In his prepared testimony, Bolton highlighted how the agency was plagued with confusion fueled by agency leaders. He said interviews with department officials "revealed inconsistencies in the types of planning documents USCP should have prepared for January 6" and could not locate documents that former Chief of Police Steven Sund said existed prior to the attack.

Current and former security leaders at the Capitol have defended their actions before and during the attack.

The New York Times reported on the inspector general's findings earlier Tuesday evening, following a CNN report on Bolton's summary earlier this month.

The watchdog report also noted a series of leadership directives that it said ultimately set back police response the day of the insurrection, such as a decision on less-lethal weapons and a lack of police access to critical equipment.

Officers were directed by leaders not to use all available equipment the day of the attack, such as less-lethal weapons to disperse crowds. Bolton said an official also relayed that Capitol Police do not use flashbangs like other area law enforcement agencies.

Also, officers reported protective gear that was "cumbersome" and riot shields that shattered upon impact during the siege because of "either improper storage or the age of the shield."

The watchdog report goes on to detail more than a dozen recommendations, from prioritizing its Civil Disturbance Unit, addressing new training, equipment shortages, leadership communication failures and centralizing intelligence efforts.

This and more will be a major focus for members of Congress as they proceed in their consideration of a supplemental funding measure to boost Capitol security.

Lawmakers have said full public release of the Bolton report is critical.

"This report will be a vital step to help better protect the Capitol Complex," Reps. Tim Ryan, D-Ohio, and Jaime Herrera Beutler, R-Wash. — the chair and the ranking GOP member, respectively, for the House Appropriations subpanel that oversees the agency — said in a joint statement last month.

Copyright 2021 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Claudia Grisales is a congressional reporter assigned to NPR's Washington Desk.