Tags: capitol riot

Could the US Capitol Incident Be Prevented?

Could the US Capitol Incident Be Prevented?

Riot police near the U.S. Capitol on Wednesday. (Shay Horse/NurPhoto via AP)

By Friday, 08 January 2021 09:15 AM Current | Bio | Archive

Four civilians and a federal law enforcement officer have died during rioting that broke out during a protest at the U.S. Capitol, the Metropolitan Police Department (MPD) said Wednesday night.

While many may be leaping to political conclusions as to the suffering state of our political discourse and whether or not protesters were “egged on” by rhetoric on both sides of the aisle – rest assured that there are plenty of columns taking that point of view – this piece is from the perspective of a public safety professional who once served with the D.C. Metropolitan Police’s Civil Disturbance Unit (CDU).

This piece isn’t about why our nation’s Capitol was violently intruded upon – it’s what went wrong in the most heavily policed neighborhood in America, and how we can assure that it never happens again.

After a day of protests and rallies on the National Mall and U.S. Capitol lawn, a mob mentality swept the crowd of thousands once word had spread that Vice President Mike Pence would not overturn the certification of the 2020 Presidential Election.

The crowd’s demeanor turned angry, resulting in upward of hundreds of protesters storming inside the Capitol without the required security screening. Immediately thereafter the U.S. Capitol Police was overrun by the mob in what many in the law enforcement community consider a failure in either intelligence, preparation or both.

During the intrusion, a 40-year old US Capital Police officer was killed. In addition, Ashli Babbitt of San Diego, an Air Force veteran, was shot by a Capitol Police agent while attempting to break a transom window to enter the Speaker’s Hall to the House floor, according to MPD Chief Robert Contee.

The shooting is being investigated by the MPD’s Force Investigation Team, who investigate all officer-involved shootings in D.C. “In addition to the shooting, one woman and two men died “around the Capitol grounds” after suffering “separate medical emergencies,” Contee said.

Wednesday’s storming of the Capitol, is the first time such an incident has occurred since 1998 – when Capitol Police Officers Chestnut and Gibson were killed in an attempted assignation of Rep. Tom DeLay; and set a solemn record for the largest such incident – surpassing the FALN, a Puerto Rican Terrorist group, attacked the house floor in 1954.

While many have likened the protests to the burning of Washington in 1814, domestic criminal incidents are not a direct parallel to an invasion by British forces during the war of 1812.

Needless to say, Wednesday’s violent events is not only a disgraceful, embarrassing moment for those on the right side of the aisle, who strongly support law enforcement – but also represents a major security lapse, leading many of us with experience in the D.C. law enforcement community to wonder how the U.S. Capitol Police, Metropolitan Police, and U.S. Park Police – who regularly collaborate to set the national standard for controlling civil disturbances – could allow a protest to escalate into national security threat.

This comes as, in addition to protesters storming the Capitol, improvised explosive devices were also found nearby at Republican National Committee and Democratic National Committee headquarters, according to senior law enforcement officials.

So what happened?

In viewing MPD’s approach to a myriad of riots and protests occurring after the death of George Floyd in 2020 – it was clear that D.C. was following the trend of cities foregoing proven, effective crowd control tactics in an effort to appear less “heavy handed” amid calls to defund and disband police agencies in Democratically controlled cities.

This is evident when contrasting the tactics used by MPD, who benchmarked CDU deployments throughout D.C., under Chief Charles Ramsey during the 2000-03 annual World Bank meetings. These large-scale protests participated by Black Bloc Anarchists, Antifa’s predecessor, were handled with minimal injuries or property damage.

This was attributed to interagency planning, training and police intelligence. When these protests started to become unlawful, they were met with a well-equipped force of CDU officers from MPD, Park, Capitol, Transit, Secret Service Uniformed, and Federal Protective Service Police Officers.

In analyzing footage of protests from 2020, there seemed to be little control of the streets or separation of factions – and officers were manning lines in what appeared to me mountain bike and/or street patrol uniforms vs. riot gear.

It is also noteworthy that the Metropolitan Police was commanded by Chief Peter Newsham in 2020, and that he was only succeeded by Chief Contee the week before the January 6th incident at the Capitol. In full disclosure, I served under and was trained by Chief Contee (then a Sergeant) in 1999; and know him to be an efficient, respected leader.

The question is if pressure from Mayor Muriel Bowser and the DC Council is forcing police to forgo effective tactics that ultimately put lives at risk in the name of political optics.

While all special events, like presidential inaugurals, are deployed in sync with threat assessments from each respective police agency – it was clear that a smaller, less equipped deployment was dedicated to Wednesday’s joint session of Congress to ratify presidential election results. While there are traditionally far fewer incidents at conservative rallies in the past, these rallies have been regularly met with violent counter-protests by Black Lives Matter and Antifa over the last four years.

This will most certainly force political leaders on both sides of the aisle to ask Capitol Police Chief Steven Sund, a retired Metropolitan Police official, if he had performed proper threat assessments for potential violence by hardline Trump supporters, counter protesters, or possible Antifa infiltrators at Wednesday’s protests. On Thursday, Sund announced his resignation accordingly.

From a security perspective, it was clear that the U.S. Capitol Police should have pre-requested a full complement of CDU officers from the Metropolitan Police and US Park Police with their riot gear bags nearby based on the sheer size and political implications of the event at hand. This also raises the question of how the D.C. fusion center failed to pass on the vast tension circulating on social media regarding the January 6th vote on Capitol Hill.

With a contentious presidential inauguration just 12 days away – a nation hopes that the DC law enforcement community will scrap the political trends of today and resume the nationally-recognized event control tactics that are proven to save lives.

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After a day of protests and rallies on the National Mall and U.S. Capitol lawn, a mob mentality swept the crowd of thousands once word had spread that Vice President Mike Pence would not overturn the certification of the 2020 Presidential Election.
capitol riot
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2021-15-08
Friday, 08 January 2021 09:15 AM
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