After ex-officials responsible for security at the Capitol on Jan. 6 testified before Congress Tuesday, the police union representing the rank-and-file reacted to the leadership “dysfunction” on display at the hearing and demanded U.S. Capitol Police Acting Chief Pittman also submit her resignation, citing “systemic failures” and intelligence breakdowns that left about 140 officers injured.
“Around 140 officers were injured during the insurrection including officers with crushed spinal discs, broken kneecaps, and traumatic brain injuries,” U.S. Capitol Police Labor Committee Chairman Gus Papathanasiou said in a statement provided to Fox News on Wednesday. “Some of these officers may never return to duty. Many more are experiencing signs of PTSD.”
Former U.S. Capitol Police Chief Steven Sund, former Senate Sergeant of Arms Michael Stenger, former House Sergeant of Arms Paul Irving, and Metropolitan Police Chief Robert Contee testified before a joint Senate Rules and Homeland Security Committee hearing Tuesday about the insurrection.
“The root cause of the USCP’s failure on January 6th was a failure of leadership. I think the Senators saw that dysfunction on display today,” Papathanasiou said. “Instead of cohesive leadership, we heard Stenger, Irving and former Chief Sund give contradicting accounts about the department’s handling of requests for backup from the National Guard. It’s maddening.”
During a line of questioning by Sen. Roy Blunt, R-Mo., Sund and Irving could not agree on when National Guard assistance was requested.
Sund said he submitted the request at 1:09 p.m. on Jan. 6. But Irving insisted he did not receive the request for National Guard support until after 2 p.m. while in former Stenger’s office. When pressed, Irving said he took a call from Sund beforehand while on the Congress floor but did not view the conversation as a formal request for National Guard support. Blunt ran out of time, and Sen. Ron Johnson, R-Wis., who was tapped next to question witnesses, suggested that phone records be dug up in the future to clarify that timeline.
Sund “admits that he did not see critical intelligence leading up to the insurrection. That intelligence should have been driving a more robust force posture,” Papathanasiou said. “Even after this hearing, we still don’t know why rank-and-file officers were not fully briefed on the threats that our leadership already knew were looming.”
Also discussed Tuesday was a memo sent out by the FBI Norfolk Field Office on Jan. 5 suggesting that a coordinated attack was planned on Jan. 6 and Congress was the target. The memo was first publicly reported by The Washington Post on Jan. 12, but Sund testified before Congress that he did not learn about it until as recently as Monday.
“This is a report that I am just learning about within the last, they informed me yesterday of the report,” Sund said. To that, Sen. Gary Peters, D-Mich., asked, “How can you not get that vital intelligence on the eve of what’s going to be a major event?” Sund said the information was “coming in as raw data” and admitted that it would have been helpful to have had the memo in advance.
Papathanasiou said U.S. Capitol Police officers who responded to the insurrection “paid a horrible price for our leadership’s failures” and lost Capitol Police Officer Brian Sicknick, who the department said died from injuries sustained at the riot, as well Capitol Police Officer Howard Liebengood and Metropolitan Police Officer Jeffrey Smith, who both “have tragically taken their own lives.”
“We credit Stenger, Irving and Sund for having the decency to resign,” Papathanasiou said. “However, Acting Chief Pittman and her entire leadership team must also be replaced.”
The union recently held a vote of no confidence on the current leadership, and officers voted overwhelmingly that the U.S. Capitol Police needs new leaders. In Pittman’s case, 92% of the officers voted against her continuing to be acting chief or chief.
“The current leadership has lost the trust of the front-line officers. We know what these individuals failed to do prior to the insurrection, and we know what they failed to do during the insurrection,” Papathanasiou said. “The trust they have lost, cannot be regained. If we are going to address the systemic failures that led to the security breach, we need new leaders. New leaders that will ensure we have the proper training and equipment needed.”
“Congress must find out the entirety of what went wrong and establish the steps needed to secure the Capitol complex,” the union leader continued, thanking Sens. Amy Klobuchar, D-Minn., Rob Portman, R-Ohio, Blunt and Peters for holding the joint hearing he hoped will be the first of many. “The number of threats continues to rise, not decline. Members of Congress must be able to safely carry out the duties entrusted to them by the American people, no matter what threats they face.”
Providing a first-hand account of police response to the U.S. Capitol, Capitol Police Capt. Carneysha Mendoza said at the hearing Tuesday that she suffered burns on her face as officers inside the building on Jan. 6 were doused with gas sprayed by rioters.
“I proceeded to the Rotunda where I noticed a heavy smoke-like residue and smelled what I believed to be military-grade CS gas — a familiar smell,” Mendoza, who served in the U.S. Army, said. “It was mixed with fire extinguisher spray deployed by the rioters. The rioters continued to deploy CS inside the Rotunda.”
“Officers received a lot of gas exposure, which is a lot worse inside the building versus outside, because there’s nowhere for it to go,” she continued. “I received chemical burns to my face that still have not healed to this day.”
As Congress continues to seek clarity on the planning and events that unfolded in Washington, D.C., on Jan. 6, the U.S. Capitol Police released a separate statement Tuesday to correct “misinformation” in the media about the officer who shot and killed Ashli Babbitt, a 35-year-old Air Force veteran and Trump supporter, inside the Capitol building as rioters stormed the building.
“As the investigation continues into the events of January 6, 2021, it’s important to correct misinformation some in the media have reported, and that’s been shared on social media,” the agency said in a press release. “Reports identifying Special Agent David Bailey as the officer involved in the shooting in the Speaker’s Lobby are inaccurate. The Department will share additional information once the investigation is complete.”
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