Lawmakers on Thursday targeted the U.S. Capitol Police for a shake-up after its officers failed to fend off violent pro-Trump protesters who laid siege to the building, resulting in the deaths of four people.
On the other side of Capitol Hill, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell announced the resignation of Senate Sergeant-at-Arms Mike Stenger, a move demanded by Democratic Leader Charles E. Schumer of New York.
Mr. McConnell said the move was effective immediately upon the lawmaker’s request — an item on which the two parties in the upper chamber appeared to see eye to eye after the bloody unrest inside the Capitol building Wednesday.
Mr. Schumer had said that if Mr. Stenger weren’t gone once the Democrats take over the Senate on Jan. 21, “I will fire him.”
Law enforcement experts were aghast at what they saw as a stunning lack of preparation by the Capitol Police.
Furious lawmakers are calling for drastic changes.
Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky praised law enforcement for keeping members safe when pro-Trump protesters and agitators broke into the Capitol during a joint session of Congress to certify the 2020 election results.
The mayhem turned deadly when a female protester was fatally shot by a Capitol Police officer.
“Yesterday represented a massive failure of institutions, protocols, and planning that are supposed to protect the first branch of our federal government. A painstaking investigation and thorough review must now take place and significant changes must follow. Initial bipartisan discussions have already begun among committees of oversight and Congressional Leadership,” Mr. McConnell said in a statement.
Sen. Christopher Murphy, Connecticut Democrat, said he had been in talks with Capitol Police and fellow lawmakers about what changes must be made and said they still plan to hold Joseph R. Biden’s presidential inauguration.
Mr. Murphy, the top Democrat on the Senate Appropriations subcommittee overseeing the Capitol Police, noted that it took four hours for the Department of Defense to send help.
“We shouldn’t have to wait four hours to get Department of Defense assistance when the United States Capitol is under attack,” he told reporters.
Capitol Police battled more than 8,000 pro-Trump protesters and agitators outside the building for an hour before it was breached.
On the other side of the Capitol, the House Appropriations Committee announced an investigation into Wednesday’s violence and suggested that they will bring in officials for questioning.
“To ensure the safety of those who work and visit here, we must get to the bottom of these breakdowns and prevent them from ever happening again,” the committee’s Democratic leaders said in a statement.
The breach of the building was a clear failure by the Capitol Police to carry out its mission to protect Congress, said Timothy Dimoff, a former SWAT team leader who runs a security consulting business.
“The Capitol Police knew it was going to be a large group, but they assumed it was a peaceful group they could manipulate and control. You prepare for the worst and then everything is better,” he said.
Chief Sund’s resignation was a stunning reversal from earlier in the day, when his spokesperson said he had no plans to step down.
Mrs. Pelosi blasted Chief Sund on Wednesday for not calling lawmakers since the violent siege. It took more than 20 hours after the House and Senate chambers were locked down for Capitol Police to address the incident.
In that statement, Chief Sund said there was “a robust plan” to address protests, but the Trump supporters’ activities turned into “criminal riotous behavior.”
“The violent attack on the U.S. Capitol was unlike any I have experienced in my 30 years in law enforcement here in Washington,” he said.
Mr. Dimoff ticked off a list of failures he said could have reduced the chaos, if not outright prevented protesters from taking over the Capitol.
Capitol Police should have put stronger concrete barriers into place and beefed up the law enforcement and military presence before the protest began, he said.
“If they can spit-hit the wall, the crowd is too close,” Mr. Dimoff said. “Soon they will just start piling up and someone will start pushing, moving everyone forward like cattle and going through the police.”
Mr. Dimoff also said the Capitol Police should have done a better job gathering intelligence ahead of the protest by reviewing social media accounts and keeping an eye on potential agitators. He pointed to social media posts announcing plans to storm the Capitol.
The officer, who has not been identified, will have police powers suspended while awaiting the outcome of a joint investigation between the Capitol Police and the District of Columbia’s Metropolitan Police Department.
Ashli Babbit, 35, a California Air Force veteran, was shot in the neck by the officer.
She was one of four demonstrators who died during the siege.
Three other people died from medical emergencies, said acting Metropolitan Police Chief Robert Contee III.
Chief Contee identified the three individuals as Benjamin Philips, 50, of Ringtown, Pennsylvania; Kevin Greeson, 55, of Athens, Alabama; and Roseanne Boyland, 34, of Kennesaw, Georgia.
The chief didn’t provide additional information about the individuals, who died on and around the Capitol grounds.
The police guarding the Capitol sustained a toll too, as 15 officers were hospitalized and up to 60 injured.
But Capitol Police still have a lot to answer for, lawmakers and law enforcement experts say.
Viral videos and pictures of police officers taking selfies and letting down barricades for the protesters have also surfaced online, increasing interest and raising questions for law enforcement officials about the assault.
“What you are seeing today is a lot of videos that raise concerns, and we are asking for information today from Capitol Police,” Mr. Murphy said. “It is very hard to look at a 30-second or a 40-second video without context.”
⦁ Gabriella Muñoz and David Sherfinski contributed to this report.
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