Capitol security officials laid out a lengthy list of reforms on Tuesday they say have changed the way law enforcement will protect lawmakers in the aftermath of the Jan. 6 attack on the Capitol — even as they’re still working to address staffing shortages that have left police officers exhausted and overtaxed.
The reforms have touched every aspect of the Capitol Police’s work — from intelligence gathering to riot control — as officials aim to beef up security around the complex and protect against a future attack.
The changes are spelled out in a 10-page report by the Capitol Police Board obtained by POLITICO. The long-awaited report marks one year since the mob attack that showed enormous gaps in the Capitol’s preparedness, with lawmakers demanding a slew of reforms for the police force and its other security offices. The four members of the board are House Sergeant at Arms William Walker, Senate Sergeant at Arms Karen Gibson, Architect of the Capitol Brett Blanton and Capitol Police Chief J. Thomas Manger.
Manger has gone to enormous lengths this week to show the extent of those changes. In an interview with POLITICO, for instance, he detailed new tools and tactics, such as upgraded cell phones, riot gear and more regular threat assessments. He told reporters Tuesday the Capitol Police were now “stronger and better prepared” than they were before Jan. 6, 2021.
But the police force is still grappling with a major weakness: An inadequate number of officers on the job. The current shortage is roughly 447 officers, according to the report.
It presented several solutions to the department’s staffing shortage, which the report described as the department’s “ biggest challenge.”
The “fastest option,” the report said, involved the contracting of private security officers in posts where a Capitol Police officer might not be necessary or where the department needs a "tactical advantage." The use of contractors would supplement the force and free up officers for more training and leave opportunities, the report said. The Capitol Police union has criticized the proposal, though Manger told reporters Tuesday it was an "ongoing discussion. We're working with them, trying to address their concerns."
The second part of the strategy involved the improvement of wellness programs on the force to retain officers.
The report also said Capitol Police are close to completing a nationwide search for an intelligence chief, part of an extensive overhaul of the department in response to the failures that were exposed by the violent assault Jan. 6, 2021.
Speaker Nancy Pelosi praised the Capitol Police Board’s report as demonstrating “important continued progress to protect the Capitol, honor the sacrifice of our Capitol Police heroes and defend our American Democracy, with the release of this report.”
The sweeping response from Capitol Police comes as many lawmakers continue to worry about the security of both their D.C. and district offices, with threats still common against both members and their staff.
Several Democrats raised the issue of security on a private call with Manger and Walker on Tuesday afternoon. Rep. Katie Porter (D-Calif.), for instance, raised questions about how to ensure security at lawmaker events back home, since members can’t use their office funds to pay for private security — only campaign funds. Another Democrat, House Education and Labor Chair Bobby Scott (D-Va.), sought answers on the Capitol’s ongoing review of its firearms policy.
House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer had previously asked for clarification on the firearms policy from the security officials — including an clear ban on firearms in hearing rooms, committee rooms and other areas of public gathering within the Capitol complex.
The two security officials also detailed some of the other ideas under consideration: Such as a proposal for enhanced screening for Capitol visitors, similar to the White House’s system. They also discussed plans to beef up security at entrance checkpoints.
Sarah Ferris contributed to this report.
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