The AP Interview: Capitol Police Chief Sees Growing Threats
The new US Capitol Police chief said the force, still struggling six months after an insurgency that left its officers fighting, bloody and bruising, “cannot afford to be complacent.” The risk to lawmakers is higher than ever. And the threat of lone attackers is only growing.
WASHINGTON (AP) – The new U.S. Capitol Police chief has said the force, still struggling six months after an insurgency that left its officers fighting, bloody and bruising, “cannot afford to be complacent “. The risk to lawmakers is higher than ever. And the threat of lone attackers is only growing.
In an interview with The Associated Press, J. Thomas Manger said his force faced a historically high number of threats against lawmakers, thousands more than a few years ago. He predicts that authorities will respond to nearly 9,000 threats against members of Congress in 2021 – more than 4,100 were reported from January to March.
“We never had the level of threats against members of Congress that we see today,” Manger said. “Obviously, we have more important work in terms of the protection aspect of our responsibilities, we have more important work than before. “
Manger touted the changes that were made to intelligence gathering after the department was widely criticized for being woefully ill-prepared to fend off a host of insurgents in January. Officials had compiled information showing that white supremacists and other extremists were likely to gather in Washington on January 6 and that violent disruption was possible. The police were brutally beaten during the insurgency. Five people died.
Today’s events have redefined the way the United States Capitol Police and other law enforcement agencies in Washington approach security. The extreme measures put in place two weeks ago for a rally in support of those imprisoned during the riot are not one-off, they could be the new normal. Powered by former President Donald Trump, the awakening of domestic extremist groups and continued volatility around the 2020 election has changed the math.
Manger said putting up temporary fences around the Capitol and calling for reinforcements was a prudent move. It may not be the same for all demonstrations.
“It’s really going to depend on what information we have beforehand,” he said. “It will depend on the potential for violence at a particular protest.”
With Manger, the police had a long-time lawyer. He was Chief of Montgomery County in Maryland, outside of Washington, from 2004 to 2019. Prior to that, he was head of the Fairfax County Police Department in Virginia. These jobs, along with a leadership position within the Major Cities Chiefs Association, have made him a familiar face in law enforcement circles in Washington and on Capitol Hill.
He took office in late July, months after the former leader resigned amid the fallout from the insurgency. The September 18 rally was Eating’s first test – and he was taking no chances.
“We were just in a position where we couldn’t allow another Jan. 6,” he said. “And I really needed to make sure that the men and women in the Capitol Police Department understood that we had the resources we needed, the training we needed, the equipment we needed and the staff we needed to make sure they could do it. their work and do it safely.
In the end, the police outnumber the protesters by far, and Capitol Hill officers were mocked by some for exaggerating. But Michael Chertoff, Secretary of Homeland Security under the administration of George W. Bush, said it is just smart police to learn from their mistakes and be better prepared next time, and that is it if there are too many cops around – if the result is no one? is killed or injured.
“When you get protests that are announced or that you throw at right-wing or left-wing extremists, I think you’re going to see that they’re going to look into a visible display of protection, maybe more than they have. need, but enough to do so it is clear that they will no longer be overwhelmed, ”he said.
Chertoff, who now heads the security and cybersecurity risk management of the Chertoff Group, said such fortifications will not be necessary for every planned free speech event in the nation’s capital, but law enforcement must be better prepared when it comes to people who have expressed sympathy for Jan.6, as there is strong reason to believe they are in favor of using violent force to disrupt the government. Because it has already happened.
The Capitol Police are part security agency, part local police – they have an annual budget of around $ 460 million and around 2,300 officers and civilian employees to guard the Capitol grounds and local police. people inside the building, including all lawmakers and staff. In contrast, the entire city of Minneapolis has about 800 sworn officers and a budget of about $ 193 million.
A scathing internal report earlier this year found that serious shortcomings in tactical equipment, including weapons, training and intelligence capabilities, contributed to security concerns during the Jan.6 melee. In his report, obtained by the PA, Capitol Police Inspector General Michael A. Bolton seriously questioned the force’s ability to respond to future threats and another full-scale attack.
But a second task force later tasked with reviewing Jan. 6 said Capitol Hill police already had the ability to “track, assess, plan or respond” to threats from domestic extremists who continue to potentially target the building.
The report recommended a major security overhaul, including funding for hundreds of new officer positions and the creation of a permanent “rapid response force” in the event of an emergency.
But these changes would require a massive influx of money. To a measure of $ 2.1 billion in July, Congress delegated nearly $ 71 million, with much of that funding going to cover overtime costs.
Still, Manger said, “I think what we have in place today is an improvement over what we had a year or nine months ago.”
The event, which Republican lawmakers and Trump and his allies have sought to downplay and reject, prompted an increase in the number of applicants to join the force. Manger compared it to police and firefighter apps after the 9/11 terrorist attacks.
Manger also defended the retention of Yogananda Pittman, the Capitol Police chief who led intelligence operations for the agency before the January attack. Pittman, who was elevated to acting chief with a tenure marred by a vote of no-confidence from base officers on force and questions about intelligence and leadership failures, is back in charge of intelligence and leadership. protection of the leaders of Congress.
“This idea that I should go in and fire everyone on the leadership team because they failed on January 6… with no experience in my leadership team to rely on and help me move forward? “
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