Acting US Capitol Police chief acknowledges failures of January 6 but can’t say what increased budget would do to solve them

Acting US Capitol Police chief acknowledges failures of January 6 but can’t say what increased budget would do to solve them

The acting chief of the US Capitol Police department acknowledged command and intelligence failures the day insurrectionists stormed the Capitol, but dodged questions from lawmakers trying to understand how the request for an increased budget would address those failures.

Leaders of the department responsible for protecting Capitol Hill and federal legislators reevaluated their funding needs in the wake of the insurrection and asked for a 21% increase over last year’s funding, from $512 million to $619 million.

Acting Chief Yogananda Pittman, who took over the department after her predecessor resigned, testified before one of the US House of Representatives committees that oversees the police force on Wednesday morning.

Other than her testimony, Pittman hasn’t provided information about the day’s events or changes to departmental operations in the two months since the attack. She’s held no press conferences.

She also testified to a need for money to fund, among other things, an increase in the number of officers available to work as “dignitary protection” and in analyzing intelligence.

During an exchange with Rep. Dan Newhouse, Pittman acknowledged “command and control” and the department’s internal intelligence sharing process both failed on the day of the insurrection but did not say why.

“I want to make sure we have confidence that we’re just not throwing dollars at the problem that that we truly are addressing the, the, the tough questions that we need to in order to be better prepared into the future,” Newhouse, a Washington Republican, said. “I’m not convinced that January 6 happened because of life lifecycle replacement issues or because of software maintenance agreements and, and those kinds of things.”

“Our goal and focus has been to strengthen our intelligence capabilities,” Pittman responded.

“Tell me then how the budget request addresses that in the breakdown in command but that’s what I’m getting at, just so simple, boil it down,” Newhouse asked later.

Pittman responded with an answer about member protection and threats to officers being “through the roof.” She testified to a near doubling of threats to lawmakers since last year, and a 118% increase between years 2017 and 2020.

Pittman acknowledged the failure of intelligence and command that day and listed off changes she’s implemented since becoming acting chief. Pittman also ordered a review of command procedures and the command center and ordered bosses to start regular training of evacuation routes.

“We want to make sure that we have the officers that are assigned to those chambers in chambers during a critical incident, some of the information is US law enforcement sensitive so I can’t go into the details of those evacuation routes,” Pittman said. “But I can assure you … I made sure that those communications went out to those commanders.”

Pittman also answered questions about officer wellness and preparedness for future events. She disclosed that the US Capitol Police had purchased an L-RAD, a device that can be used to communicate with officers or protesters over the din of a protest but also as a less-than-lethal weapon in crowd-control settings. It’s not clear if the model purchased by USCP has the weapon capability and a spokesperson didn’t respond to a request for comment.

The department ordered helmets for all of its officers in the wake of the attack. Unlike most large police departments, US Capitol Police officers aren’t outfitted with a basic set of protective gear used most commonly in protest, civil disturbance or riot settings, like shielded helmets and gloves.

Many officers who fought for the Capitol did so in their uniforms and weren’t protected from bear spray, pepper spray or the sticks, clubs, and flagpoles used to beat on police.

Rep. Adriano Espaillat, a New York Democrat, asked why Eugene Goodman, a Black officer now famous for leading a White mob away from lawmakers, didn’t have protective gear considering “you knew there was going to be a mob of thousands racist, bigoted people there that were ready to storm the Capitol.”

“We have ordered helmets for the entire department and going forward we know that our officers need additional equipment,” Pittman responded. “So I agree, they do need that equipment and it’s reflected in this budget request.”

She told lawmakers that some officers who were at the Capitol on the day of the insurrection are dealing with post-traumatic stress disorder and the department needs Congress to provide for “ongoing care for our workforce.”

“I have talked to a number of officers and commanders out in the field as well. And I know that they are dealing with post-traumatic stress disorder,” Pittman said. “There’s no end specific date that those types of disorders that type of trauma is going to end so we know that we need ongoing care for our workforce.”

Pittman said they hired a resiliency coordinator before the events at the Capitol but the need for help was “exacerbated” by the events on January 6.

“We know it’s a long road ahead for our staff, and we appreciate the congressional community support,” Pittman said.

Support from USCP officers

The department’s handling of intelligence and its failure to plan and staff the Capitol in a way that gave officers a fighting chance to hold the building led to an eventual vote of no-confidence in February. Officers who spoke to CNN said their leaders failed them and that morale in the department was damaged by USCP leadership.

Despite a no-confidence vote in which 93 percent of those voting expressing no-confidence in Pittman, she told lawmakers that she believed she had the support of rank-and-file officers.

When asked by Rep. Jaime Herrera Beutler of she believed officers had faith in her, Pittman said she believed she did.

“Yes or no, so you feel like you have the confidence of most of your officers? I realize you can’t make everybody happy. Do you feel like that’s an accurate assessment?” the Washington Republican asked.

“I do believe that’s an accurate assessment,” Pittman said.