“The takeaway from that is: Let’s provide the training to our officers so they are used appropriately,” Bolton said, later adding: “Training deficiencies put officers . . . in a position not to succeed.”
More than a half-dozen congressional committees and one task force appointed by House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) have opened inquiries into how law enforcement missed warning signals and failed to hold back the insurrection, during which hundreds of President Donald Trump’s supporters invaded the Capitol building in a deadly but failed bid to prevent Congress from certifying President Biden’s election win. But Bolton’s investigation, projected to continue for several more months, is expected to produce the most comprehensive analysis of how inadequate training and intelligence-gathering and operational “deficiencies” allowed the Capitol’s first line of defense to be overrun.
To date, the inspector general has produced two interim reports for Congress detailing investigators’ preliminary findings, including that the force lacked the security clearances needed to properly assess warnings that the Capitol might come under attack. He also determined that the Capitol Police had incomplete records of the personnel and equipment on hand to respond to civil disturbances — and that many of the officers did not know how to use the crowd-control weapons at their disposal.
During Thursday’s hearing, Bolton was emphatic that the Capitol Police would have to undertake sweeping procedural changes to be prepared for future threats to the Capitol and Congress. He also called for a “cultural change,” saying that the force must move away from the “traditional posture of a police department” and start acting instead like “a protection agency” focused not on responding to disturbances but on preventing events like the Jan. 6 riot.
The hearing came as lawmakers are readying a supplemental spending package to pay for reforms and enhancements to campus security. Many are based on recommendations from retired Army Lt. Gen. Russel Honoré, whom Pelosi tasked earlier this year with conducting an evaluation. His team’s draft report, released last month, recommended an expansion of the campus police force and construction of mobile and retractable fencing around the Capitol to be deployed in emergencies.
Pelosi told reporters during a Thursday news conference that she had received a draft of the House Appropriations Committee’s proposal to apportion funds for stepped-up security measures, including plans “to harden the windows, the doors and the rest.”
But when the inspector general was asked Thursday where Congress should be spending its money, Bolton focused on a different answer: training.
“If you want to invest dollars, that’s the place to invest it: training,” he said, lamenting that for too long, police training has been treated as an afterthought to other measures.
Bolton specifically raised lapses in the department’s Civil Disturbance Unit, or CDU, to highlight how a lack of training directly affected the Jan. 6 response. The Capitol Police CDU functions as “an ad hoc unit,” he said, instead of a permanent force with specialized skills.
He called for Congress to adopt incentives to attract officers to the high-risk job and to build a force that is prepared to respond to potentially riotous crowds and threats to the Capitol.
“To be truly effective, you have to have that continuous training,” he testified. “They need to have a stand-alone unit, whatever size the department deems appropriate, and that’s their full-time job.”
Bolton also emphasized that improving the Capitol Police’s capacity to gather, analyze and assess intelligence is vital for responding to future threats.
“We need an intelligence bureau, . . . a full-service, comprehensive bureau,” he said. Bolton has also called for ensuring that civilians and officers tasked with intelligence-gathering operations obtain top-secret clearances, which not all employees currently have.
Bolton is not the first official to call for an overhaul of training, staffing, communications and intelligence operations. In recent weeks, Congress has heard about law enforcement failures and errors from the Capitol Police’s former chief, Steven A. Sund; the current acting chief, Yogananda D. Pittman; and the former Senate and House sergeants-at-arms who resigned after the riot, Michael Stenger and Paul Irving, respectively.
None of those officials have yet spoken with the House Administration Committee — a fact Republicans criticized in their remarks Thursday.
“This is the first hearing that the chair has called on January 6th, more than three months after the attack,” said Rep. Rodney Davis (Ill.), the panel’s ranking Republican, complaining that they had “skipped a step” by not having first called in officials who made the decisions leading up to Jan. 6.
Sund, the former police chief, has accused the two sergeants-at-arms of refusing his requests to call in the National Guard as a backup force before the riot. Under current rules, the police chief must seek permission from the Capitol Police Board, composed of the sergeants-at-arms and the Architect of the Capitol, before deploying additional resources in response to emergencies.
Davis said that any review of the Capitol Police that sidestepped scrutiny of the board would be incomplete. Bolton answers to the Capitol Police Board and does not have jurisdiction over it.
“I’ve said for a long time that an overhaul of the board is needed,” Davis said, complaining that the committee’s probe was not satisfactorily bipartisan. He promised to release “a series of short reports” of his own.
The Administration Committee, made up of six Democrats and three Republicans, is one of at least five House panels that have launched probes into aspects of the Capitol riot, with still others examining questions surrounding forms of domestic extremism that were highlighted by the attack. But most of those inquiries have been slow to get underway.
Many lawmakers expected that such committee-level inquiries would quickly be overshadowed by an independent commission like the one that investigated the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, a concept that had seemed to have strong bipartisan support in the attack’s immediate aftermath but now has stalled in the face of political disputes over the scope of its authority.
In the Senate, a joint investigation between the committees on rules and homeland security and governmental affairs has made more headway, with a report documenting the failures that led to the mayhem on Jan. 6 expected to be completed next month, according to aides familiar with its progress.