The Washington PostDemocracy Dies in Darkness

Several Capitol police officers suspended, more than a dozen under investigation over actions related to rally, riot

Capitol police and supporters of President Trump face off last week. (Stephanie Keith/Reuters)

Several U.S. Capitol Police officers have been suspended and more than a dozen others are under investigation for suspected involvement with or inappropriate support for the demonstration last week that turned into a deadly riot at the Capitol, according to members of Congress, police officials and staff members briefed on the developments.

Eight separate investigations have been launched into the actions of Capitol officers, according to one congressional aide who spoke on the condition of anonymity to describe the status of the internal review.

In one of the cases, officers had posted what Capitol Police investigators found to be messages showing support for the rally on Wednesday that preceded the attack on the complex, including touting President Trump’s baseless contention that the election had been stolen through voter fraud, the aide said.

Investigators in another instance found that a Capitol officer had posted “inappropriate” images of President-elect Joe Biden on a social media account. The aide declined to describe the photographs.

The scrutiny of the Capitol Police comes amid intensifying recriminations over why the complex was insufficiently protected when thousands of Trump supporters converged on Washington to protest the congressional action to certify Biden’s win.

On Sunday, former Capitol police chief Steven Sund, who resigned after the attack, told The Washington Post in an interview that congressional security officials rebuffed his efforts to put the D.C. National Guard on standby before the joint session.

On the day Congress was set to confirm that President-elect Joe Biden won the election, a pro-Trump mob stormed the Capitol building. Here's how it happened. (Video: The Washington Post, Photo: Evelyn Hockstein/The Washington Post)

Outgoing Capitol Police chief: House, Senate security officials hamstrung efforts to call in National Guard

House and Senate lawmakers have called for investigations into the security failures that day. One police officer died as a result of the mayhem and others were seriously injured. Four civilians also died, including one who was shot by police and three others in medical emergencies.

In a statement Monday night, acting Capitol police chief Yogananda Pittman said “several” officers have been suspended.

“The Department also has been actively reviewing video and other open source materials of some USCP officers and officials that appear to be in violation of Department regulations and policies,” she said. “Our Office of Professional Responsibility will investigate these behaviors for disciplinary action, up to, and including, termination.”

On Monday, Rep. Tim Ryan (D-Ohio), whose committee has financial oversight of the Capitol Police, told reporters in a video conference call that one of those suspended was captured in images of the riot that went viral online. The photo appears to show a Capitol officer allowing or even posing for a rioter to take a picture with the officer.

A news photographer who can be seen in the picture when the selfie was taken told The Post that the image must have been captured in the first two hours after the mob breached the building.

A video of the moment shows the picture was taken just inside a security checkpoint. An alarm, perhaps from a nearby magnetometer, blares as men from the crowd appear to keep entering the door without police checking for weapons. The photographer said he thought the image was taken in a doorway near the northwest corner of the Capitol.

The other officer who was suspended was seen outside the complex wearing a red Make America Great Again baseball cap at the time rioters were surrounding the Capitol, Ryan said.

One video taken during the mayhem appears to show an officer wearing a MAGA cap leading a line of men in black helmets and body armor as they leave the Capitol to a crowd of applauding rioters. It is unclear whether other men behind him are officers or rioters.

Ryan said Pittman, who took command of the department on Friday after Sund’s resignation, determined that the actions “qualified for immediate suspension.”

“The main point is that Capitol Police are looking at everybody involved that could have potentially facilitated at a big level or small level in any way,” Ryan said.

A woman who answered a phone listed for Capitol Police union Chairman Gus Papathanasiou hung up Monday evening when reached by a reporter. Papathanasiou did not immediately reply to a follow-up email seeking comment.

The suspensions come as various law enforcement agencies have opened probes into whether their own members took part in the Capitol riot or cheered on the attackers.

The Secret Service indicated Monday that it was investigating an officer who posted comments on Facebook in which she accused lawmakers who formalized Biden’s win of treason and echoed Trump’s conspiracy theories about the rigging of the election.

According to images provided to The Post, the officer posted a meme on Facebook of Trump shaking hands with himself in the Oval Office, titled “Here’s to the Peaceful Transition of Power.” The day after the attack on the Capitol, a comment posted in the officer’s name ridiculed efforts to remove Trump from office and accused lawmakers who were formally accepting the electoral college vote of “committing treason on live tv.”

It read in part: “Good morning patriots! Yesterday started out beautiful and as usual Antifa soured the mood and attacked police and an Air Force veteran was murdered….It’s OFFENSE time finally!!”

In response to a request for comment about the officer’s posts, an agency spokeswoman said: “The U.S. Secret Service carries out its law enforcement mission in an objective and apolitical manner. Any allegation that an employee is not carrying out their duties in that manner will be investigated. As this is a personnel matter, the agency will not be commenting.”

Across the United States, police officers and at least one police chief are facing termination, suspension or other discipline for their proximity to or alleged involvement in the chaotic gathering in Washington.

In Seattle, interim police chief Adrian Diaz confirmed that at least two officers had been placed on administrative leave and referred to internal investigations after the department received social media posts showing the officers in Washington. Residents of Troy, N.H., have also called for the resignation of Police Chief Dave Ellis after an interview he gave placed him at the pro-Trump rally.

On Monday, the police force in Anne Arundel County, Md., announced that it has suspended an officer with pay as the agency works with federal authorities to determine what involvement the officer may have had.

Maryland police officer suspended with pay as investigators look into possible involvement at U.S. Capitol

One Capitol officer, Brian D. Sicknick, died of injuries sustained while fighting off the mob. On Saturday, a Capitol officer who was on duty during the riot died by suicide.

Others have been traumatized by the riots. At least one officer has turned in a service weapon and asked to take medical leave, according to a congressional aide familiar with the investigation.

A Capitol officer who was present during the attack said the rank-and-file of the department feel demoralized and betrayed by leadership.

Officers were not “prepared whatsoever” to handle the mob that overwhelmed the Capitol and had no dedicated security briefing in advance, unlike with other major events, said the officer, who spoke on the condition of anonymity out of fear of retribution.

When officers were hit in the face with bear spray, they did not have the equipment or weapons to retaliate, he added.

“In my time as an officer, we have never failed so miserably than we did on that day,” the officer said. “We were failed by our management. . . . We were put in a situation to fail.”

He added: “It’s like trying to climb Mount Everest and they give you house slippers.”

The officer said that Sund “fell on the sword” and that the two sergeants-at-arms for Congress are at fault, along with Trump. Both sergeants-at-arms resigned last week.

“People said openly they were going to storm the Capitol, and [the officials] acted like it was nothing,” the officer said.

The officer also said he disagreed with the agency’s decision to suspend the officer who donned the cap, saying rioters put the hat on the officer and he kept it on to persuade several Trump supporters to help him extract officers who had been overwhelmed at the eastern front of the Capitol.

In videos online of the attack, a Black officer wearing a MAGA cap is seen asking several Trump supporters to help him reach officers swarmed by the mob at the entrance of the Capitol. “They’re scared,” the officer says. The Trump supporters help him move through a mob of people to reach several other officers in riot gear, who they then lead out of the mob.

The officer said he had spoken with the suspended officer and thought he took the actions he did to not “leave any man behind.”

“He used those two White guys, basically, used those Trump supporters to help get his people out of harm’s way,” the officer said. “If it wasn’t for them, those guys wouldn’t have gotten out. . . . People can say what they want, but he put that hat on to try to save his guys.”

Carol D. Leonnig, Joyce Lee, Kim Bellware and Ovetta Wiggins contributed to this report.

The Jan. 6 insurrection

Congressional hearings: The House committee investigating the attack on the U.S. Capitol held a series of high-profile hearings to share its findings with the U.S. public. What was likely to be the panel’s final public hearing has been postponed because of Hurricane Ian. Here’s a guide to the biggest hearing moments so far.

Will there be charges? The committee could make criminal referrals of former president Donald Trump over his role in the attack, Rep. Liz Cheney (R-Wyo.) said in an interview.

What we know about what Trump did on Jan. 6: New details emerged when Hutchinson testified before the committee and shared what she saw and heard on Jan. 6.

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.