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Review Of Capitol Riot Urges More Police, Mobile Fencing

Security fencing surrounds the Capitol following the Jan. 6 insurrection. A new assessment commissioned by House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., suggests a mobile fencing system that could be adapted based on threats.
Susan Walsh
Security fencing surrounds the Capitol following the Jan. 6 insurrection. A new assessment commissioned by House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., suggests a mobile fencing system that could be adapted based on threats.

Updated at 7:05 p.m. ET

The Jan. 6 insurrection exposed major Capitol security failures, and a review by a task force led by retired Lt. Gen. Russel Honoré is urging Congress to revamp its security apparatus by adding hundreds of new police officers, creating a quick reaction force and installing a new fencing system.

Honoré and other members of the task force hosted three bipartisan briefing sessions for lawmakers on Monday at the Capitol to discuss their findings and draft recommendations.

The six-week review, which ran through Friday, also highlighted the vast shortfalls that Capitol Police faced during the siege. Officers were understaffed and under-resourced, left without earpieces or riot gear in many cases as they fought the Capitol attackers, the report said.

The report also highlighted that the force is not equipped to track intelligence at the scale of the attack seen on Jan. 6, the report said.

"The USCP is not postured to track, assess, plan against, or respond to this plethora of threats due to significant capacity shortfalls, inadequate training, immature processes, and an operating culture that is not intelligence-driven," the report said.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., directed the review on Jan. 22 and tapped Honoré, citing his expertise responding to Hurricane Katrina in 2005 and knowledge of the Washington region. She directed him to "subject this whole complex to scrutiny."

The task force said it met with federal, state and local law enforcement officials, including military officials, and congressional members and staff.

The 13-page report recommended that the Capitol Police should hire 854 more officers — adding to their current total of more than 2,000 law enforcement personnel.

Other recommendations include:

  • The creation of a "quick response force," a rapid response force that could be mobilized quickly to the Capitol for emergencies. The team would be created from area law enforcement agencies or members of the National Guard.
  • The current fencing system be replaced with the installation of a mobile and retractable fence instead. It also recommends that the Capitol's system of cameras, sensors and alarms should be integrated.
  • The expansion of the Capitol Police's Civil Defense Unit, a specially trained team that monitors and responds to illegal activities during First Amendment assemblies and other mass demonstrations, be moved from availability only during special events to become a dedicated unit on duty any time Congress is in session.
  • The need for additional equipment and support, such as earpieces and body cameras, for all officers. It also recommends expanded K9 teams and reinstituting mounted patrol teams that were dismantled in 2005.
  • The creation of a new federal agency similar to the Department of Homeland Security to coordinate law enforcement in the larger Washington, D.C., area, including federal agencies such as Capitol Police, U.S. Park Police and U.S. Secret Service plus state and local law enforcement departments.
  • The need to empower the Capitol Police chief with sole authority to call in military backup, rather than have to await approval from the Capitol Police Board, which caused delays on Jan. 6. In addition, the chief should have the ability to appeal rejections for backup during advanced planning to House and Senate leadership.
  • The need to give the D.C. National Guard commander new powers to order emergency backup to the Capitol without seeking additional approval, which delayed their response by several hours during the attack.
  • The modification of the Capitol Police's member protection detail team, known as its Dignitary Protection Division. It recommends the creation of a new office to consolidate lawmaker travel and bring all member district offices and homes under the same, comprehensive security plan.
  • The plan to expand member protection comes after acting Capitol Police Chief Yogananda Pittman told lawmakers in a hearing last week that the first two months of 2021 saw a 94% increase in threats to members compared to the same period a year ago. Also, Pittman said from 2017 to 2020, there has been a 119% increase in overall threats, with the majority of suspects from outside the Washington area.

    The U.S. Capitol Police issued a statement on Monday saying while they are still reviewing the findings, the agency endorses plans for a new fencing system along with a boost in officer levels. Pittman testified recentlythat the fencing was needed.

    "We believe enhancements to the Capitol complex's physical infrastructure are required," the agency said. "We also agree we need to increase our manpower and overall response capabilities."

    The agency also said it would continue to work with lawmakers and area law enforcement officials as it continues to strengthen its security efforts.

    The report also highlighted other weak spots for the U.S. Capitol Police, which has only a narrow group responsible for intelligence concerns. And it goes on to urge the increase of trained analysts to support the agency's threat intelligence requirements.

    This larger team must standardize its intelligence processes and will require regular training, modern analytic tools, secure workstations and classified workspace to function capably, the report said.

    "Only a handful of people in the USCP have significant intelligence training," it said. "The understaffed Intelligence and Interagency Coordination Division (IICD) lacks the experience, knowledge, and processes to provide intelligence support against emerging domestic threats."

    Readthe full report below.

    House Republican leader Kevin McCarthy of California has raised concerns regarding the report, and Honoré. The two had met last Wednesday after the report was completed, McCarthy said in a statement.

    McCarthy called his appointment "partisan," and said Honoré had made past statements that signaled he was biased against Capitol Police and raised questions on why Pelosi appointed him. Honoré told McCarthy any such statement was made prior to his appointment, McCarthy said.

    "What I communicated to the Task Force is that the main problem with Capitol Police is its management structure. Structure dictates behavior, and a Capitol Police Board dominated by political appointees is no way to maintain the security of the Capitol," McCarthy said. "While there may be some worthy recommendations forthcoming, General Honoré's notorious partisan bias calls into question the rationality of appointing him to lead this important security review. It also raises the unacceptable possibility that the Speaker desired a certain result: turning the Capitol into a fortress."

    However, several Democrats expressed support after the briefings for the plans.

    "I think the recommendations are thorough and I think they make a lot of sense," Washington State Democratic Rep. Pramila Jayapal said of the report's "comprehensive" findings. "We are quite far behind in terms of what we need."

    Michigan Democratic Rep. Elissa Slotkin, chair of the Homeland Security Committee subpanel on intelligence and counterterrorism, raised concerns that while the report is a good start, the insurrection still needs a deeper dive like that of the 9/11-style commission, a Democratic proposal that still needs bipartisan support from Republicans.

    "The report itself just explains in just simple detail how disorganized the command structure was, how no one had clear rules of engagement there was no quick reaction force ready for this or any other type of event. They lacked major, major intelligence expertise at a time when intelligence was frankly available to most of us on the open internet," Slotkin said.

    Slotkin described the report as a "top to bottom a catalogue of organizational problems that allowed what happened on January 6th. I think it was a good start."

    But Illinois Republican Rep. Rodney Davis said while he lauded some of the report's recommendations, there's concerns how each side of the Capitol addresses security differently, and how the two parties can move forward on the same page with installing any of the new provisions.

    "We need bicameral buy-in to implement the common sense recommendations that his team has put forth," Davis said.

    Pelosi had previously told her colleagues in a February letter earlier this year that Honoré was assessing the Capitol's security needs by reviewing what happened on Jan. 6 and "how we must ensure that it does not happen again."

    Pelosi had received an interim update on Jan. 28 that covered operational readiness, interagency cooperation and security infrastructure to consider the need for an emergency supplemental funding bill to address new efforts.

    "As we prepare for the Commission, it is also clear from General Honoré's interim reporting that we must put forth a supplemental appropriation to provide for the safety of Members and the security of the Capitol," Pelosi wrote her colleagues in the Feb. 15 letter.

    California Democratic Rep. Pete Aguilar, who sits on the appropriations panel, told reporters that the next step is turning the recommendations into reality.

    "Our responsibility is to take this information in, view the recommendations, work through our committees of jurisdiction and hopefully get to some meaningful solutions to protect everybody who works under the dome and visits the dome," Aguilar said.

    This comes as several congressional committees have launched probes as well, completing about half a dozen hearings so far looking into the Capitol attack and responses by the Capitol Police, the Defense Department and others to the insurrection.

    Copyright 2021 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

    Claudia Grisales is a congressional reporter assigned to NPR's Washington Desk.
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