17 requests for backup in 78 minutes

A reconstruction shows how failures of planning and preparation left police at the Capitol severely disadvantaged on Jan. 6

Police radio communications synchronized with hours of footage show how failures of planning and preparation left police at the Capitol severely disadvantaged.

At 1:13 p.m. on Jan. 6, a D.C. police commander facing a swelling crowd of protesters on the west side of the U.S. Capitol made an urgent call for more officers in riot gear. “Hard gear at the Capitol! Hard gear at the Capitol!” Cmdr. Robert Glover shouted into his radio.

​​​​​Glover and a team of D.C. police officers had rushed to the besieged complex moments earlier at the behest of Capitol Police. By the time they arrived, the Capitol grounds were already being overrun by a mob intent on overturning President Donald Trump’s electoral defeat.

Over the next 78 minutes, Glover requested backup at least 17 times, according to a Washington Post analysis of the events, and the mob on the west side eventually grew to at least 9,400 people, outnumbering officers by more than 58 to one.

The Post reviewed police radio communications, synchronized them with hours of footage and drew on testimony and interviews with police supervisors to understand how failures of preparation and planning played out that day. The examination reveals how police were hampered by an insufficient number of officers and shortages of less-lethal weapons and protective equipment and also provides a glimpse into communications breakdowns within the police response.

At The Post’s request, a team of researchers at Carnegie Mellon University analyzed imagery to estimate the number of people outside the Capitol at precise moments. To visualize those numbers more clearly, The Post created a 3-D model of the Capitol grounds that approximated the crowd from a bird’s-eye view using data from the researchers’ crowd-counting software.

The audio recordings primarily capture the communications from Washington’s Metropolitan Police Department, or MPD. The recordings were turned over to Congress during Trump’s impeachment.

At 12:53 p.m., video shows, protesters were breaking through a perimeter of mesh fencing on the west side of the Capitol and beginning to advance toward the inaugural stage.

​​In footage reviewed by The Post, Glover and his team of at least 30 MPD officers, identifiable by their yellow-sleeved jackets, can be seen arriving at 1:12 p.m. Within minutes, police managed to push back the protesters and set up a new barrier.

​​But officers quickly suffered injuries as the mob grew in size and became more violent, according to video and audio recordings.

​“Multiple Capitol injuries. Multiple Capitol injuries,” Glover announced at 1:18 p.m. on a police radio channel used to communicate with a joint operations center at D.C. police headquarters.

​​Glover’s pleas for officers and munitions grew more urgent.

​​“I need those two other hard platoons up here now,” he said at some point between 1:36 and 1:39 p.m.

​​“Sir, we have one coming. We have one coming that’s working,” came the response.

​​Nearly a mile away, on the north side of the National Mall, an MPD platoon known as Unit 42 was putting on its riot gear and preparing to respond.

​​“They’re gearing up, and they should be to you now,” Glover was told a short time later in response to his request for an update.

At that time, Unit 42 was still trying to make its way to the Capitol, struggling to push through the crowds.

​​By 1:55 p.m., officers on the west side were vastly outnumbered.

​​The researchers at Carnegie Mellon’s Informedia Project estimated that there were at least 3,400 people on the northern half of the west side of the Capitol at that time, based on an analysis of images and videos that, when stitched together, cover that area. That is almost certainly an undercount, researchers said, because it does not include people who were obstructed by objects such as flags or trees. About 118 of those present are police officers, according to a Post review of the images.

At The Post's request, researchers at Carnegie Mellon University used a crowd-counting model to determine the number of people visible in this composite image made from video footage. (Brendan Gutenschwager/CMU/The Washington Post)
At The Post's request, researchers at Carnegie Mellon University used a crowd-counting model to determine the number of people visible in this composite image made from video footage. (Brendan Gutenschwager/CMU/The Washington Post)

​​With the crowd growing, some Capitol Police officers were pulled back, a move announced by a dispatcher between 1:50 and 1:59 p.m., according to the recordings.

​​“A decision was made by the United States Capitol Police to pull their personnel back inside the building at a point leaving one of my flanks pretty weak,” Glover told The Post on Jan. 12.

​​The Capitol Police declined to comment for this story.

By 2:01 p.m., Unit 42 had worked its way to the north side of the inaugural platform, where videos show its members — about 22 MPD officers — being shoved and insulted by the mob.

Elsewhere, rioters were getting behind police lines on the west side by attacking their flanks on the south and north. Rioters overtook the scaffolding to the north of the inaugural stage, gaining access to an upper terrace where they eventually broke a window on the west side of the building.

Still, officers fought to maintain the barrier they had established at the foot of the inaugural platform, near the center of the building’s west side.

Between 2:13 and 2:25 p.m., Glover requested guidance on a fallback position four times.

“I need a command official from Capitol so we can coordinate where they want us to pull back to,” he said, referring to a commander from U.S. Capitol Police. “We cannot hold this without more munitions or manpower.”

No response to his request for a fallback position is heard on the audio recordings.

At 2:25 p.m., according to an analysis of images, more than 9,400 people were visible in the crowd on the west side compared with 157 officers. By that time, Glover had requested more munitions at least seven times and more reinforcements at least 16 times, according to the radio transmissions.

Three minutes later, a rioter broke through the police line near the center of the inaugural platform. The crowd flooded toward the building’s entrances.

“We lost the line! We’ve lost the line! All MPD fall back!” Glover shouted at 2:28 p.m., announcing the code for an emergency, 10-33. “I repeat, 10-33, West Front of the Capitol. We’ve been flanked and we lost the line.”

The MPD retreated to an upper terrace, where at 2:31 p.m. Glover called for backup for the 17th time: “Cruiser 50 still going to need reinforcements upper deck West Front. Upper deck West Front; we cannot lose the upper deck.”

Less than 10 minutes later, video shows, the MPD team was forced from the upper terrace.

arrow-up Watch the reconstruction

About this story

Reporting by Dalton Bennett, Shawn Boburg, Sarah Cahlan, Aaron Davis, Peter Hermann, Meg Kelly, Ted Muldoon, Joyce Sohyun Lee and Elyse Samuels.

Video production by Sarah Cahlan, Meg Kelly, Joyce Sohyun Lee, Alice Li and Elyse Samuels.

3-D modeling by Jarrett Ley and Aaron Steckelberg.

Animation by Brian Monroe and Daron Taylor.

Engineering support by Lenny Bronner, Simon Glenn-Gregg, Anthony Pesce, Erik Reyna and Andrew Tran