Politics

U.S. Capitol Police chief vows to keep beefing up security one year after Jan. 6 attack

Manger has faced a mountain of work since taking on the leadership role in July. Former USCP chief Steven Sund resigned in the immediate aftermath of the Capitol attack and the entity’s acting police chief, Yogananda Pittman, received a vote of no-confidence from the USCP union not long thereafter.  

The U.S. Capitol Police were buoyed with a massive budget increase of about $70 million around the same time Manger came aboard; Congress had just approved a $2.1 billion emergency spending bill for Capitol complex security in late July. The $70 million flagged for Capitol Police from that pool was slated for new law enforcement hires and various equipment upgrades. It also funded hazard pay and mental health resources for officers.

“We will send no officer out to work the civil disturbance unit without proper gear,” Manger said.

The civil disturbance unit is a division of the police force that specifically handles protests and demonstrations.

Shoring up resources for mental health, in particular, is a priority for the still-reeling Capitol Police force. The Architect of the Capitol announced last year that it would step up progress on the completion of a police wellness center already in the works.

Resignations have been flowing since the summer and officers, whose purpose is to protect not only the building but the U.S. lawmakers inside, have often been the target of Republican-led conspiracies about the insurrection.

During Wednesday’s hearing, Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer praised the police force, saying the Capitol was “a whole lot safer” than it had been just a year ago.

And while that may be the case in Schumer’s estimation, the past year has also seen an uptick in threats to members of Congress.

Manger testified Wednesday that over 9,000 threats were issued in 2021—a doubled increase from just five years ago—and to meet that challenge, USCP hired some new officers last year after nearly 150 resigned. The COVID-19 pandemic has also hurt the force’s numbers, with dozens who have been forced to take leave because of the virus. Just about 70% of the force has received a vaccination, he added.

The police chief also said he has plans to bring on 280 new officers annually for the next three years. The department has already ordered new shields and other equipment for those officers who work in the civil disturbance division.

According to The New York Times, those upgrades may be particularly useful as the anniversary looms. The Department of Homeland Security conducted an assessment on Dec. 30 that said “threat actors” would exploit the impending anniversary of the siege. The department said it suspects that such activity would “stem from lone offenders seeking to target perceived ideological opponents, political symbols or law enforcement.”

The analysis also reportedly noted: “But we currently lack reporting on a specific or credible threat.”

So far, USCP says it has improved how the force gathers, analyzes, and shares intelligence information. Manger said the force has also recruited an expert in national security to improve communication and coordination for high-profile events.

In fact, the department has prepared a 25-page security plan just for the anniversary of the attack.

The department has ordered new ballistic helmets, high-impact eye protection, fire retardant suits, respirators, impact gloves, portable decontamination kegs, and oxygen kits. More and new shields of various sizes are also on order. Manger said they will be stored at “strategic locations around the Capitol.” The department has ordered new single and multi-shot MM launchers, or, in effect, grenade-style launchers, equipped with more defense mechanisms and weapons including Tasers, pepper balls, and long-range acoustical devices.  

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