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Capitol police angry over failure ahead of attack

Jonathan Ernst / Reuters

Capitol Police Officer in Rotunda on January 8, 2021.

After seeing one of their colleagues killed last Wednesday, Capitol police officers are angry that Republican lawmakers are refusing to submit to the security changes introduced since then, saying they would not even be surprised if some lawmakers helped organize the attack.

Officers told BuzzFeed News that members of Congress often see security as optional. Even after last week̵

7;s deadly attack, some Republican members refused to go through metal detectors and pushed past Capitol police officers.

“Officers are shaking and more people are mumbling out of the job,” an officer with more than 10 years in the force told BuzzFeed News – just as Republicans spoke last night to shine against even basic security measures. At one point today, officers set up tables around the metal detectors in an attempt to prevent Republicans from just walking past them.

One of the officers said it is not unusual for members of Congress to bring dozens of people at once and insist that visitors be waved past security. Officers ‘concerns were reiterated by some Democrats who have spoken about the security situation at the Capitol and members’ potential involvement in planning the uprising.

Rep. Mikie Sherrill has claimed that some of her Republican colleagues conducted “reconnaissance” tours of the building prior to the attack, although they did not provide evidence to back up that claim. Rep. Val Demings, former head of the Orlando Police Department, told CNN: “If any members of Congress attended, helped organize, orchestrate … they should be held accountable.”

Andrew Caballero-Reynolds / Getty Images

Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene spreads her arms as she reviews security outside the House on January 12, 2021.

Two of the officers who spoke to BuzzFeed News said it would not surprise them if lawmakers had been involved. “There are definitely some members who need to be held to account when a survey shows the overall circumstances,” one said.

“Let’s be very clear, we are here for Congress,” said a veteran officer. “We are the buffer so that Congress does not have to deal with the mess they create in their respective districts so that they do not have to deal with the public. This is primarily our mission – police work is a different way of thinking. ”

Capitol police officers also said they had lost confidence in the leadership after last week’s attack. Last weekend, two officers described scenes of chaos at the Capitol during Wednesday’s attack and the racism they faced. This caused a third officer to open up to the gloomy mood of the department, their lack of confidence in leadership and doubts that anything would really change.

“There would be a vote of no confidence in the management right now if one took place,” said the officer, who has nearly two decades in the force. “There is a collective anger right now and there is a ‘them and us’ mentality with the management. That’s not good. “Capitol police did not respond to a series of requests from BuzzFeed News for comment.

Officers say the department seems better prepared for potential attacks ahead of the inauguration of Joe Biden on January 20th. They said they have been told there will be at least 14,000 national guard members present to help maintain peace. Early this morning, management circulated a six-page intelligence assessment to officers outlining several events that they believe have the potential to become violent, they said.

But while officers say they hope to be better prepared for future attacks, they are still struggling with the toll that last week’s siege demanded of them and their colleagues. The third officer described how close they had been to opening fire on the mob: After nearly two decades on the force, the officer said, “I have never, ever, physically or mentally been in a place where I have felt the need to use my weapon. , and I was about five seconds from doing it that day. I felt legitimate concern for my safety and the safety of the other few officers who were around me, for it is a gross understatement to say that we were below numbers. “

The three officers who spoke to BuzzFeed News on condition of anonymity for fear of retaliation laid the ultimate blame for what happened on January 6 at the feet of their leaders, who they said seemed completely blind to the attack, despite weeks of open planning of conspiracies online. All three officers said their leaders put them in an impossible situation that day.

“I am furious. “I was involved in the fight and fortunately I was not too badly injured, but I have a colleague who was hit in the back with a pipe, he has been out since Wednesday,” said the third officer. “I have another colleague who was knocked out cold. We just had an officer commit suicide, and [Officer Brian] Sicknick died. All this happened and if [management] would have taken appropriate action, I think it would have mitigated the situation exponentially. ”

The veteran officer said they were so outnumbered and unprepared that at times he had to stand helpless when colleagues were viciously attacked. “We came to this door and they were like five or six officers on the other side,” they said. “And it was very heartbreaking for me because we could not do anything for them. There were literally hundreds, thousands of people on the other side of this door and [the officers are] literally [pinned] against the wall, but we can not open the door, because if we open the door, they will be crushed, and these people will pretty much take over. ”

All three officers say only a few measures were taken prior to Wednesday’s uprising to prevent officers from being completely exceeded. Usually on a day when police chiefs expect a large protest or riot, they organized a roll call where they would inform officers of the perceived threats and give them information about what to expect. The three officers said no such meeting took place Wednesday morning. Each of the officers individually pointed out that the management did not even take “simple measures” prior to the attack such as building a temporary barrier around the Capitol in advance.

An officer talked about how outrageous it was to see workers lay down barriers only after the attack had taken place.

Bill Clark / CQ Call, Inc. via Getty Images

Workers install more rugged fences along the east side of the Capitol on January 7, 2021 – the day after the attack.

“At 3 o’clock in the morning, when we finally got a chance to leave after the demonstration, they made people come up the 8 foot barriers that they have now,” said an officer. “Twelve to 14 hours later, they have most of this stuff up – it took them 12 hours to get that shit up. And you could not have done it in advance based on all the warnings these people said to them. They knew the group was coming. They knew the group was coming. ”

Leadership was completely absent that day, they added.

“The people above, I have no respect for them,” they said. “I have not personally heard any radio calls from anyone [senior officials]. I mean, nothing. “Chief Steven Sund,” the officers said, “was not heard on the radio once that day.”

With about 2,000 employees and a budget of $ 515 million, the agency said, officers had tools to prevent the attack on the Capitol – the money, the intelligence service suggesting Trump’s supporters could be violent, and a chief with extensive expertise in police work protests and major events. Sund, who has since retired, was former commander of Washington, DC, the police department’s special operations department. Among his responsibilities was overseeing “civilian disruptive units,” specialized units that respond to mass protests. As commander, he also served as a leadership planner for the president’s inaugurations in 2009 and 2013.

The Agency is overseen by Congress itself. Its supervisory board consists of the chief, the architect of the Capitol, and both sergeants for arms for the House and the Senate.

“We have an entire intel section,” said one officer. “There were plenty of indicators that this would be far more than routine … this is a situation where our intelligence apparatus either dropped the ball or [management] just said they did not care. ”

Two of the officers, both black, specifically compared last Wednesday’s attack to how the management handled the Black Lives Matter protests this summer, saying the contrast is stark.

“This summer, when we had the BLM protest, it was all hands on deck,” an officer said. “I mean we had an abundance of bodies and support … the amount of people they had available was amazing. They pretty much worked us to the ground … it [Wednesday], there was none of it. ”

“Let me just say this: if the same posture was taken on Wednesday, taken in the summer, with the BLM protests, it would have been completely different,” he added. “I think [last Wednesday] was the result of a mixture of arrogance and incompetence, but I also think that a group of black people and brown people are very afraid of [management] than a group of white people. I do not want to say it, but it’s just me who’s as objective as I can be. ”

According to one officer, the force is “male-dominated” and “white-dominated”, adding that “minority officers are not treated equally.”

Officers said the incompetence exhibited last Wednesday was not a deviation, but rather the result of years of mismanagement by the agency’s management – and by extension their ultimate bosses, the 535 members of Congress. Officers describe an environment in which they are often respected by members of Congress and treated more as security guards or even personal security details than as sworn police officers.

Each of the officers said the department needed a complete overhaul of its culture, but one predicted that Congress would simply throw money at the problem rather than adopt real change.

“I think we’ll probably get a 20% increase in our budget because it came to Congress’ doorstep, and when things touch them, they basically just write a check and say what you need is what you get, ”said an officer. “There must be a complete and complete transformation of culture, but people are resistant to it in any form or form.”

“You can’t throw money at the culture,” he added. The veteran officer believes that transparency, not money, is the answer.

Joshua Roberts / Reuters

Security personnel placed a metal detector in front of an entrance to the house chamber on January 12, 2021.

“We do not have to comply with the Freedom of Information Act. How can you not be transparent? It’s just amazing, ”they said. As the Capitol Police Force reports to Congress, which is not subject to the Freedom of Information Act, it is difficult to know what is really going on. “[Transparency] would improve this department at all levels. We are being paid by the taxpayers – they need to be able to access everything that is going on within this department reasonably. ”

In addition to Sund, both the House and Senate Arms Sergeants are ending. This is a welcome step among the officers who spoke to BuzzFeed News; one of them said, “The weapons sergeant is full of shit.”

Another said the only reason there has been any accountability for leadership is that the attack was such a national event.

“I think it’s easy to let them go,” says the veteran, who has been in the department for almost 20 years. “Many people were injured who did not need to be injured. Simple measures could have been put in place to mitigate this. ”

The officer said: “I have too many colleagues and friends who are out right now and that’s not right … That’s not the case, OK, this was an unfortunate situation, people did not do their job and they put us in a situation where we were set up to fail. That is not correct. Sicknick was a good guy, and he did not deserve it [to die]. ”●

Kendall Taggart contributed reporting for this article.

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