Reforms have made the Capitol Police better equipped to deal with a massive attack like that at the Capitol last Jan. 6, but the department remains far short of how many officers it needs, according to its chief, J. Thomas Manger.
"We’re now really about 400 officers short of where we need to be," Manger said on Fox News Sunday. "One thing that we have not been able to fix, so to speak, are the staffing issues."
The department's ranks were depleted because of attrition blamed on the Jan. 6 attacks, but there were also fewer new officers being trained in 2020, when the Federal Law Enforcement Training Academy was shut down for 10 months because of the COVID-19 pandemic, said Manger.
Meanwhile, the threats against members of Congress have increased "exponentially," meaning that the Capitol Police have had to "shift the focus of just doing the typical jobs that we would do normally and put more resources toward investigating those complaints" to be sure that they are safe not only at the Capitol but when they are traveling in their home districts, said Manger.
He added that the department lost more than 130 officers, who either retired or resigned after Jan. 6.
But even with the officer shortages, now policies are in place to help the department, including a policy change signed into law by President Joe Biden that allows the department to call out the D.C. National Guard directly.
"The fact that we have the authority to call out the National Guard, the fact that we have formal processes in place to get additional resources from area law enforcement agencies is a big improvement, and we believe it would have prevented something like Jan. 6 from happening," said Manger.
In July, Manger came out of retirement to take the lead for the Capitol Police. He had most recently served as a police chief in nearby Montgomery County, Maryland, and said Sunday that when he saw the events of Jan. 6 rolling out, he was both "just angry" and "horrified by the assaults that were going on against police officers there."
Manger said in a separate interview with The Washington Post that the threats to members of Congress or the Capitol rose in 2021 to about 9,600. Fewer than 4,000 threats were reported in 2017, but increased to 8,600 in 2020, he said.
The department is authorized for 2,000 sworn officers and is now down to 1,800, said Manger. In addition to the mass retirements and resignations after last year's attack on Jan. 6, three officers died after that day, including officers Jeffrey Smith and Howard Liebengood, 51, who died by suicide, reports The Post, and Capitol Police Officer Brian Sicknick, who was injured during the attack, and according to a D.C. medical examiner's ruling, suffered a stroke and died from natural causes.
Manger said he's trying several things to build up his department, including doubling up on academy classes and hiring private security contractors for some posts.
He said he plans to hire 280 new officers this year, but morale remains a problem among the ranks of the Capitol Police.
"You’ve got hundreds of officers who are engaged in this battle who felt like the department let them down," he said.
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