WASHINGTON — Capitol Police officers were underprepared for the insurrectionist mob that stormed the Capitol on January 6, and many of the men and women tasked with defending Congress didn't even have the basic protective equipment provided to all D.C. Metropolitan Police Department officers, the department's former chief testified on Tuesday.
Steven Sund, the former U.S. Capitol Police chief who was in charge during the insurrection and has since resigned, said drills and safety measures set up before January 6 did little to actually prepare officers.
"Based on the intelligence that we received, we planned for an increased level of violence at the Capitol, and that some participants may be armed... but none of the intelligence we received predicted what actually occurred," Sund said in his opening statement during a joint hearing between the Senate Homeland Security Committee and the Senate Rules Committee Tuesday.
Sund said "extensive preparations" were put into place for January 6, including "the full activation of the department, implementing a significant enhancement for member protection, extensive operational enhancements to include significant civil disobedience, deployment and an expanded perimeter" as well as additional protective equipment for officers and training. But he also acknowledged that many of his officers – including three of the department's seven civil disturbance units activated that day – didn't have the helmets, protective gloves, batons and other equipment they needed.
More than 140 officers were injured during the Capitol riot, and one, Officer Brian Sicknic, died as a result of injuries sustained that day.
The lack of protective equipment for officers defending the nation's legislative branch stood out even more starkly when acting DC Police Chief Robert Contee testified that all of his officers do get issued helmets, protective gloves and batons to patrol local streets in the city. Contee said all MPD officers also get "basic civil disturbance unit training" – something many Capitol Police officers didn't have going into January 6.
While the department does conduct regular drills – include an annual "chamber action drill" in which officers and the House and Senate sergeant-at-arms practice a lockdown – Sen. Jeff Merkley (D-Oregon) wanted to know if Capitol Police officers are trained to handle a concentrated breach effort.
“Have you ever held a drill to respond to this situation where a crowd pushes past the barricades?” Merkley asked.
“Not to this level, sir," Sund said.
Sund and the former sergeants-at-arms for both chambers of Congress were quick to defend both the bravery of Capitol Police officers and the sufficiency of their own preparations, though, in light of what they described as an intelligence failure. Sund said he prepared for what they were told to expect – an event like previous MAGA marches – and said the FBI failed to properly flag new intelligence on January 5.
“We planned for a protest event," Sund said. "What we got was a coordinated, military-style assault on my officers and a violent takeover of the Capitol Building.”
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