U.S. Capitol Police Inspector General Michael A. Bolton, who is leading an investigation into why law enforcement failed to contain a pro-Trump mob on Jan. 6, said that only a small number of his recommendations to make the Capitol complex “safe and secure” have been adopted.
Additionally, Bolton said, out of the 200 security enhancements that the Capitol Police department has provided to his office, only 61 have “documentation to support those enhancements to have occurred.”
“Although the department has addressed some of our recommendations and have made security improvements throughout the Capitol complex, much work still needs to be addressed in relation to training, intelligence, cultural change and operational planning,” Bolton told the committee.
The inspector general said his team is wrapping up a final report on the security flaws that he expects to issue “within the next few days” and that he said will include an update on the work still needing to be done.
In the worst attack on the seat of American democracy since the War of 1812, a mob supporting then-President Donald Trump wielded flagpoles, baseball bats, stun guns and bear spray as it stormed the Capitol, commandeered offices and the House and Senate chambers, and forced Vice President Mike Pence and members of Congress to flee to secure locations.
The attack left four dead, and an officer who had been sprayed with a powerful chemical irritant, Brian D. Sicknick, suffered a stroke and died the following day. Some 140 members of law enforcement were injured.
During the hearing, Bolton said that although the Capitol Police has “made several changes to include updating policies and procedures,” procured additional training for the agency’s different units and ramped up hiring “of subject matter expert in the planning and coordination of large events or high profile demonstrations,” the department “still has more work to achieve [on] the goal of making the Capitol complex safe and secure.”
He emphasized a need for more training, better guidance of the canine division and improved intra-departmental cooperation and communication.
“The Department still lacks an overall training infrastructure to meet the needs of the department, the level of intelligence gathering and expertise needed, and an overall cultural change needed to move the department into a protective agency as opposed to a traditional police department,” Bolton said in his testimony.
He said recent hires to the department have proved helpful, saying a former Secret Service agent hired to work in intelligence for the department helped coordinate its response to a Sept. 18 rally held by right-wing activists, which Bolton described as the largest protest in the complex since Jan. 6. Demonstrators that day were supporting jailed Jan. 6 rioters. They found themselves far outnumbered by police, journalists and counterprotesters.
Bolton told Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.), who chairs the committee, that funding secured by Congress in July for the department has helped the Capitol Police to obtain better shields and munition, and that officers “are getting the equipment needed.”
Capitol Police officers, Bolton said, also are receiving daily briefings and “appropriate” threat assessments. Every officer also has been provided a government cellphone for alerts and emergency messages. The force, he said, is updating its policies and procedures for lockdowns and has started conducting training to make sure more officials have knowledge of the lockdown procedures.
In a statement, the Capitol Police said it agrees with Bolton’s assessment that the department “must continue to improve and expand its intelligence and protective capabilities.”
“Training is a top priority. We are working diligently to address staffing shortages in order to provide officers more time for additional training,” the department said in a statement. “Although there is more work to do, the Department has made immense progress in first addressing the specific failures that led to the January 6 attack.”
Among those changes, the department listed an improvement in how it gathers and analyzes intelligence, and a focus on briefings and new equipment. “These improvements are due to the hard work of our loyal employees and support from our dedicated Congressional stakeholders,” the department said.
During questioning, Sen. Shelley Moore Capito (R-W.Va.) asked whether the department was creating drills and regular evacuation practices, saying she “questioned the evacuation standards that were used to actually remove us from the chamber.” Bolton said that it would be difficult to coordinate an evacuation of the entire Capitol complex with Congress in session but that a drill could be executed if coordinated building by building.
Morale in the force has “generally increased or gotten better . . . because they are seeing some changes,” Bolton said.
“But I think the officers are in that wait-and-see mode, they want to see: What else are we going to do?” he said. “They do recognize it does take time, but also they are watching leadership and watching the community at large.”
Bolton said one of his major concerns yet to be properly addressed was a need for the Capitol’s police force to have better access to intelligence.
“Intelligence is still considered a vision as opposed to being a bureau-level [operation],” Bolton said. “They have yet to hire a permanent director to head up intelligence.”
Sen. Angus King (I-Maine), however, dismissed the idea of a separate intelligence bureau for the Capitol Police.
“It bothers me that we’re creating another intelligence bureau,” King told Bolton. “So I would hope that what we can talk about is the receipt of intelligence information, but not necessarily the creation of a new intelligence division.”
“This is not something that we are proponents [of], that we would be actually going out and gathering the intelligence,” Bolton said. “We’d still be users of the intelligence, we’re just elevating the ability to keep that intelligence and then be able to process it.”
Bolton also said the Capitol Police has been doing a good job addressing the rising number of threats against members of Congress and said he expects this response to be better once a new field office in Florida is operating.