You’re reading the Opposing View, one of two perspectives in Today’s Debate.
For Our View, read “Create 9/11-style commission to study security failures.”
Excerpts from the written testimony of former U.S. Capitol Police Chief Steven A. Sund before the Senate Committee on Rules and Administration and the Senate Homeland Security and Government Affairs Committee:
I have been in law enforcement for almost 30 years, and in that time I have been involved in a number of critical incidents, and responded to a number of horrific scenes. The events on January 6, 2021, constituted the worst attack on law enforcement that I have seen in my entire career. This was an attack that we are learning was pre-planned, and involved participants from a number of states who came well equipped, coordinated, and prepared to carry out a violent insurrection at the United States Capitol. I witnessed insurgents beating police officers with fists, pipes, sticks, bats, metal barricades, and flag poles. These criminals came prepared for war. They came with weapons, chemical munitions and explosives. They came with shields, ballistic protection, and tactical gear. They came with their own radio system to coordinate the attack, as well as climbing gear and other equipment to defeat the Capitol’s security features.
The breach of the United States Capitol was not the result of poor planning or failure to contain a demonstration gone wrong. No single civilian law enforcement agency — and certainly not the USCP — is trained and equipped to repel, without significant military or other law enforcement assistance, an insurrection of thousands of armed, violent, and coordinated individuals focused on breaching a building at all costs. Without the intelligence to properly prepare, the USCP was significantly outnumbered and left to defend the Capitol against an extremely violent mob. The officers from the USCP and our partner agencies fought valiantly that day against tremendous odds. I am extremely proud of these officers for their heroic response and also for their restraint in the application of lethal force. While, tragically, there were casualties on this day, the loss of life could have been far worse if it had not been for the professionalism and restraint shown by the officers that day.
There has been much conflicting information presented by various officials and the media regarding the preparations for and actions taken at the Capitol that day, and I would like to set the record straight from my perspective. Contrary to some of the reporting, the USCP had an effective plan in place to handle the First Amendment demonstrations and possible pockets of violence that were anticipated for January 6, based upon the available intelligence. The United States Capitol Police, just like most law enforcement agencies, is a consumer of the information provided by the intelligence community. The USCP uses this information, as well as our own information and research to develop plans for events and demonstrations. Thus, the plans that we developed for the Joint Session of Congress and the associated demonstrations expected that day were based upon all of the available information and intelligence that we had prior to the event, as well as the experience we had handling other similar events.
In preparation for the Joint Session of Congress, I directed that the Department be placed into an “all hands on deck” status, meaning every available sworn employee with police powers would be working. We activated the largest number of CDU platoons possible while still supporting the Joint Session of Congress. This allowed for the activation of approximately seven CDU platoons (approximately 250 officers), with approximately four platoons being available in “hard” gear — helmets, protective clothing, and shields. While limited by budgetary and training restraints imposed on USCP, the planned number of CDU officers had always sufficed for large demonstrations on Capitol Hill prior to January 6th. In addition, we activated civilian support for January 6 to include enhanced access to the property management division, in the event officers needed replacement uniforms or equipment, and vehicle services.
On Tuesday, January 5, I hosted a virtual meeting with my Executive Team, all three principals of the Capitol Police Board, and a dozen of the top law enforcement and military officials from D.C., including the FBI, the U.S. Secret Service, and the National Guard. This meeting focused on both the January 6 event, and the upcoming Presidential Inauguration on January 20. During the meeting, no entity, including the FBI, provided any intelligence indicating that there would be a coordinated violent attack on the United States Capitol by thousands of well-equipped armed insurrectionists. At no time did the Department of Homeland Security issue a threat advisory bulletin in reference to violent extremists planning a coordinated, violent attack on the U.S. Capitol. It should also be noted that the U.S. Secret Service planned to and did escort the Vice President of the United States to the Capitol on January 6, which it obviously would not have done if it believed there to be a threat of a violent insurrection at the Capitol building and on its grounds.
While the violent attack that took place was unspeakable, and those responsible for this violent insurrection should be held accountable, I am proud of the men and women of the U.S. Capitol Police, the vast majority of whom fought valiantly and risked their lives to protect Members of Congress, their staff, and the Capitol building. Because of their bravery and professionalism in the face of this attack, USCP officers prevented the mob’s actions from resulting in more bloodshed, and carried out their mission to protect the Members of Congress and the legislative process. Contrary to what others have said, the USCP did not fail. There are many heroic stories of USCP officers that day that helped to ensure the safety of the Members of Congress, including two officers who lost their lives. Democracy prevailed on January 6, 2021, in large part because of the courageous actions of the United States Capitol Police. Although we were successful in accomplishing our mission on January 6, 2021, and no Members were injured and the legislative process was able to continue just a few hours later, Congress and the USCP must nevertheless look at this event and identify area for improvement and systems that broke down or failed.
I wished I had the opportunity to continue my work with the USCP. I truly appreciate every member of the Department, sworn and civilian, and I worked hard to ensure that every one of them felt that they were a valued member of the team and essential to our mission. The USCP is not like any other police agency in the country and, until January 6, 2021, many people did not truly understand the breadth of its responsibility or the role it plays in protecting our democracy. The USCP is an outstanding agency and I will always be proud of my time there. It is essential that Congress take the steps necessary to ensure that something like this never happens again. I will assist you in any way that I can.
This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: U.S. Capitol Police did not fail Jan. 6: Former USCP chief Steven Sund