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Capitol Police chief seeks significant funding increase to expand security after riot

A member of the National Guard stands at the East Front of the U.S. Capitol. (Michael Reynolds/EPA-EFE/Shutterstock)

The acting chief of the U.S. Capitol Police made her case Wednesday for a 21 percent funding increase to pay for improved security after the Jan. 6 riot, with an emphasis on better support for officers and broader protections for lawmakers.

Acting chief Yogananda D. Pittman told members of the legislative branch subcommittee of the House Appropriations panel that the additional funding would help ensure the police force could better recruit, train and equip officers, and address threats against lawmakers, which had nearly doubled since early 2020. She said her proposed budget additions “directly align” with forthcoming recommendations that retired Army Lt. Gen. Russel Honoré, whom House leadership asked to review security in the attack’s aftermath, is expected to release soon.

Lawmakers pressed Pittman for assurances that the agency’s leaders would properly use the influx of funding — and that it would actually address the errors that left the Capitol vulnerable to a mob that supported President Donald Trump.

“Increases are needed,” panel chairman Tim Ryan (D-Ohio) said. “But we need to understand what the increases will mean and what they will be used to accomplish.”

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Pittman last faced the panel less than a week ago, in an exchange that often turned testy, as lawmakers grilled her about why the Capitol Police hadn’t better prepared for Jan. 6, when its own intelligence assessments had warned that the “Capitol itself” could be a target of the planned demonstrations. Pittman estimated then that more than 10,000 people swarmed the Capitol grounds and that about 800 broke into the building. She faulted the security failure on the Capitol Police not imagining that a small subset of agitators would be able to whip the crowd into a riotous mob.

Lawmakers continued to press Pittman on Wednesday about how the department would address intelligence and communications problems that crippled the response before and during the riot. She testified that under the proposed budget, the force would be able to increase its staff of intelligence analysts from 13 to 33 and that leaders had already taken steps to address command and control breakdowns, and to improve the equipment distributed to commanders.

But she emphasized that “an investment in our employees” — specifically in terms of better personal safety equipment, training, and mental and physical health — would be paramount for ensuring that the Capitol Police could prevent the next Jan. 6-style attack from taking place.

The first test for how efficiently leaders have addressed internal problems may come as soon this week. Pittman told lawmakers that the Capitol Police has “some concerning intelligence” that pro-Trump activists might try to advance on the Capitol on Thursday, a date some conspiracy theorists believe is the country’s rightful Inauguration Day and that former president Donald Trump will retake the White House. Trump lost the election, but many of his most impassioned supporters, citing his repeated false claims about widespread fraud, believe the contest was stolen from him.

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Pittman said the Capitol Police has already “taken immediate steps to let the National Guard as well as our workforce know what to expect tomorrow and going forward,” and that authorities are working with partner agencies to monitor and respond to threats.

But Pittman stressed that she wants the Capitol Police to become more self-reliant. To that end, she proposed creating “a dedicated stand-ready force of two platoons (80 officers) at all times” to respond to emergencies. Such an expansion would increase the Capitol Police’s ability to dedicate security details to lawmakers facing particular threats, she testified, noting that such details are usually reserved only for congressional leaders.

She also pledged that the Capitol Police would do a better job going forward of ensuring that officers had basic protections, saying that “we have ordered helmets for the entire department.”

Officers’ lack of access to riot gear and other equipment has emerged as another flash point for criticism, with the Capitol Police union issuing a scathing condemnation of leaders for leaving officers vulnerable to the Capitol attackers.

This police department “needs to be a model for all other departments in the country,” Ryan said Wednesday, addressing the shortfalls.

Pittman and her deputies also pledged to improve access to mental and physical health services, with additional funding from Congress. She said, too, that funds would go toward accelerating recruiting and improving screening requirements for new officers, with the goal of adding 212 new sworn officers in fiscal 2022, which begins in October.

“It takes about 18 persons for us to have one good, qualified candidate,” Pittman said, noting that the efficiency of the force’s recruiting and training programs had also been affected by the coronavirus pandemic.

There was little discussion about the future of the security perimeter around the Capitol. Pittman, who has said she thinks there should be “permanent fencing,” promised a “balanced” approach to policing going forward. But lawmakers asked her fewer questions Wednesday about reopening the campus, when several Republicans pressed Pittman to make reestablishing public access to the Capitol a top priority.

The Jan. 6 insurrection

The report: The Jan. 6 committee released its final report, marking the culmination of an 18-month investigation into the violent insurrection. Read The Post’s analysis about the committee’s new findings and conclusions.

The final hearing: The House committee investigating the attack on the U.S. Capitol held its final public meeting where members referred four criminal charges against former president Donald Trump and others to the Justice Department. Here’s what the criminal referrals mean.

The riot: On Jan. 6, 2021, a pro-Trump mob stormed the U.S. Capitol in an attempt to stop the certification of the 2020 election results. Five people died on that day or in the immediate aftermath, and 140 police officers were assaulted.

Inside the siege: During the rampage, rioters came perilously close to penetrating the inner sanctums of the building while lawmakers were still there, including former vice president Mike Pence. The Washington Post examined text messages, photos and videos to create a video timeline of what happened on Jan. 6. Here’s what we know about what Trump did on Jan. 6.