Capitol police opening field offices to address increased threats to lawmakers

As pressure builds for more protection in wake of riots, agency to expand footprint and ‘pivot towards an intelligence-based protective agency’

Alex Woodward
New York
Tuesday 06 July 2021 18:12
Video released showing Capitol rioters flash lights at officers

Six months after the Capitol attack, US Capitol Police announced plans to open field offices in California and Florida to investigate threats to lawmakers, among other security measures in the wake of a deadly riot that has magnified the state of security in and around the halls of Congress.

Federal law enforcement agencies have arrested more than 500 people in connection with the attack, and officials have suggested dozens of other arrests will be made, as House Democrats prepare to lead an investigation into an assault fuelled by false election conspiracy theories amplified by Donald Trump and his allies.

But sweeping security steps among law enforcement agencies to prevent a similar attack have not been made clear, and congressional Republicans have objected to parallel probes into the attack as they downplay the events of 6 January and point to in-progress investigations at the US Department of Justice, while also suggesting FBI officials were complicit.

US Capitol Police is implementing several recommendations from congressional reviews, including from a Senate Homeland Security committee, as well as a security review performed by Lt Gen Russel Honore’s task force and several other reports from federal watchdogs.

The agency “has been working around the clock with our congressional stakeholders to support our officers, enhance security around the Capitol Complex, and pivot towards an intelligence-based protective agency,” according to a statement from Acting Chief Yogananda Pittman.

Internally, the agency “has vastly increased the information shared with sworn officers about obtained intelligence and event planning” following widespread lapses and failures to share intelligence and prepare for threats leading up to the attack, despite weeks of planning in the open across social media.

Capitol police leadership has now “increased intelligence sharing and collaboration between all of our local, state and federal law enforcement partners as well increased our partnership within the intelligence community and Congressional stakeholders,” Chief Pittman announced.

The chief also announced new equipment, training and counseling support for officers.

Nearly 140 officers were injured during the assault, and two Capitol Police officers died after the attack after confronting rioters – Brian Sicknick died following two strokes, and Howie Liebengood died by suicide. Washington DC Metropolitan Police Department officer Jeffrey Smith also died by suicide.

“We honor all the brave men and women who, against all odds, faced down a violent crowd that day and protected our elected leaders and everyone who was in the Capitol Complex,” Chief Pittman said. “We will never forget their bravery and will continue to work in their honor.

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