US Capitol Police needs ‘cultural change’ after riot: Watchdog

Inspector general tells Congress police department was ill-prepared for insurrection, needs sweeping overhaul.

Capitol Police were overrun by a mob of Trump supporters who stormed the US Capitol building on January 6, trying to prevent the Congress from certifying President Joe Biden's election victory [File: Leah Millis/Reuters]

A congressional watchdog for the US Capitol Police told Congress on Thursday that the department needs a “cultural change” and that management decisions not to deploy crowd control weapons dampened the force’s response to the January 6 riot at the Capitol.

Inspector General Michael Bolton told a House panel the Capitol Police would have had “a better chance” against the mob of pro-Trump rioters who overran the Capitol building if they had used stun grenades to help push back the crowd.

Police used pepper spray and batons and, with one exception, did not fire their guns to try to control the crowd, which was eventually pushed back by formations of police in riot gear.

“It certainly would have provided the department a better posture to repel these attacks,” Bolton said in an appearance before the House Administration Committee.

Police leaders feared stun grenades and other “less lethal” crowd control weapons would cause injuries and potentially kill the rioters, Bolton said. He recommended Congress hire more police officers and invest in training and resources.

In a 104-page report to Congress released on Wednesday, Bolton painted a negative picture of the Capitol Police’s ability to respond to future threats and cast doubt on whether the force would be able to respond to another large-scale attack.

Five people died in the attack including a police officer and a woman who was shot by police trying to enter the House chamber. Three rioters died from health conditions in the mayhem.

The report calls for sweeping change within the force after broad failures in its response to the January 6 insurrection, including missed intelligence predicting a “war” and weapons that were so old that officers did not feel comfortable using them, The Associated Press reported.

“In regards to a cultural change, we see that the department needs to move away from the thought process as a traditional police department and move to the posture of a protective agency,” Bolton said.

“A police department is geared to be a reactive force, for the most part. Whereas a protective agency is postured, in their training and planning, to be proactive to prevent events such as January 6th,” he said.

US Capitol Police try to fend off a mob of supporters of President Donald Trump as one of the rioters tries to use a flag like a spear as they storm the Capitol on January 6 [File: Leah Millis/Reuters]

The report describes in detail how department equipment was substandard, including at least 11 different types of munitions that appeared to have expired.

Some equipment had not been replaced in more than two decades. Riot shields had been improperly stored and shattered upon impact as the officers fended off the violent mob

Weapons that could have fired tear gas were so old that officers did not feel comfortable using them. Other weapons that could have done more to disperse the crowd were never staged before a Trump rally held near the White House, and those who were ordered to get back-up supplies to the front lines could not make it through the aggressive crowd.

In other cases, weapons were not used because of “orders from leadership”, the document said. Those weapons – called “less lethal” because they are designed to disperse rather than kill – could have helped the police repel the rioters as they moved towards the Capitol after Trump’s speech, according to the report.

Source: News Agencies