Capitol Police Ill-Prepared for Jan. 6 Riot, Watchdog Says


U.S. Capitol Police were ill-prepared for the Jan. 6 insurrection because of deficiencies in leadership decision-making under fire, threat analysis and equipment and training, according to the department’s top internal watchdog.

The department “failed to disseminate relevant information obtained from outside sources, lacked consensus on the interpretation of threat analyses, and disseminated conflicting intelligence information regarding planned events for January 6, 2021,” Capitol Police Inspector General Michael Bolton plans to tell a congressional hearing Thursday, according to his prepared remarks.

The Capitol Police needs to change its approach from being a police department that reacts to crime to a “protective agency” that is “being proactive to prevent events such as January 6th,” he will tell the panel.

Bolton is to testify about his review of the January siege by supporters of former President Donald Trump, which includes a detailed timeline of the events tied to the takeover of the Capitol of that day, and dozens of recommendations for internal changes he says the department should implement.

In a statement, the department said it “fully agrees with many of the recommendations.” The department “is also aware that nearly all of the recommendations require time and significant resources the Department does not have.”

“January 6 was a pivotal moment in USCP, U.S. and world history that demonstrated the need for major changes to the way USCP operates,” the department stated, adding it “stands eager and willing to work with its congressional stakeholders to implement critical security enhancements.”

The public hearing before the Committee on House Administration was scheduled by its chairman, Representative Zoe Lofgren of California, after a private briefing by Bolton in March.

The riot resulted in the death of Capitol Police Officer Brian Sicknick and left more than 100 others injured. Two other officers who defended the Capitol died by suicide shortly after the attack.

Current and former Capitol security leaders have previously testified before congressional committees, largely defending their actions.

Bolton’s office has produced two “flash reports” so far that summarize findings from its review and offer the department specific proposed reforms. Other such reports are to be delivered to the department every 30 days, according to Bolton’s prepared testimony.

One of the first two reports asserts there was “a lack of consensus about whether intelligence information regarding planned events on January 6, 2021, actually indicated specific known threats to the Joint Session of Congress.”

Based on the department’s own timeline of events, one finding is that at approximately 7 p.m. to 8 p.m. on Jan. 5, the FBI’s Norfolk Division posted on internal systems a document with information about a specific, potential threat against members of Congress, including a map of Capitol’s underground tunnels.

Later that evening, a Capitol Police task force officer pulled the memo from the FBI system and emailed it to an internal distribution list. But that memo did not surface or circulate more widely within the department until it was attached to an information package sent out late on Jan. 6 -- after the Capitol security breach occurred.

Even after the Capitol riot, and after the media began reporting on the existence of that document and lawmakers asked about it, some in the department denied they were aware of it.

“Implementing formal guidance requiring that employees communicate any intelligence reports and concerns from external sources to appropriate commanders would significantly improve the ability of USCP to effectively disseminate intelligence throughout the Department,” the summary states. It adds, “the department should consider reorganizing its intelligence functions into a single intelligence bureau.”

Another early focus of Bolton’s office is on needed reforms to the department’s Civil Disturbance Unit, or riot squad.

The recommendations so far from the watchdog include updating the unit’s mission, tactics, policies and training. But they also touch on broader use of less-lethal weapons, keeping better tabs of expired ammunition, and proper storage of riot equipment to prevent deterioration. For instance, storing police riot shields in a temperature-stable, so they do not become breakable and ineffective.

In its statement Wednesday, the department said it has already taken “significant steps” to address concerns raised by the inspector general. For instance, it pointed to what it called “a streamlined, comprehensive intelligence sharing process so that the information the Department receives from its intelligence partners is presented to its workforce in a consistent and coherent manner.”

The department added t it was working to replace old equipment even before Jan. 6, “though these efforts were stymied by manufacturing and shipping constraints of the COVID-19 pandemic.”

©2021 Bloomberg L.P.

BQ Install

Bloomberg Quint

Add BloombergQuint App to Home screen.