Key takeaways from the review of Capitol Hill security after January 6 insurrection

March 10, 2021

A report commissioned by House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-California) in the wake of the January 6 riot at the U.S. Capitol calls for increased staffing and intelligence for the Capitol Police, a permanent “quick reaction” force, and “mobile” fencing.

On Monday, House members were briefed on the final draft of the report by retired Army Lt. Gen. Russel Honoré. NBC News reported that the network was provided a copy by a senior Democratic aide.

According to NBC, the report says the force currently is ill-equipped to deal with the “volume and nature” of the threats facing the Capitol complex, many of which are coming from “domestic elements.”

“The U.S. Capitol Police (USCP) were understaffed, insufficiently equipped, and inadequately trained to secure the Capitol and Members when violently attacked by a large mob,” the report says, and is still vulnerable over two months later.

“The USCP is not postured to track, assess, plan against, or respond to this plethora of threats due to significant capacity shortfalls, inadequate training, immature processes, and an operating culture that is not intelligence-driven,” the report says.

The House is expected to incorporate Honore’s findings into a new funding bill to boost security around the campus and pay for some of the expenses incurred after January 6 — such as the National Guard deployments and the cleanup and repair costs.

Among the takeaways from the report are the following, according to ABC News:

  • More Capitol Police officers. The report found that Capitol Police were “understaffed, insufficiently equipped, and inadequately trained” to secure the Capitol and suggested filling all existing vacancies on the force—about 233 officers—and adding another 854 officers in various roles, including as intelligence specialists, civil disturbance units, and dignitary protection agents. If enacted, the additions would make the Capitol Police force, which already has more than 2,000 officers, among the largest departments in the entire country.

Additionally, the report recommended adding more K9 units to help Capitol Police scan for explosive devices on the Capitol complex, due to the number of vacant units and “aging” dogs. It also suggested reestablishing the department’s mounted unit—which was disbanded in 2005—to serve as a “force multiplier” in high-trafficked areas to help control crowds.

Honore’s team recommended the use of body cameras “to improve police accountability and protect officers from false accusations of misconduct,” and more intelligence support for the department.

  • New rapid response team. The report called for the creation of a permanent Quick Reaction Force—comprising federal law enforcement officers or a military police battalion under the command of the D.C. National Guard—to help Capitol Police with future emergencies.

The report also recommended the creation of Civil Defense Units within the Capitol Police, to be kept on standby when Congress is in session; as well as for all officers to be given civil disturbance training and their own riot gear to use in emergency situations.

  • More barriers around the Capitol. The report recommended a “mobile fencing option,” which in the future can be assembled and taken down quickly,; in place of the temporary fencing currently surrounding the Capitol, which requires a “significant” number of personnel to patrol.

A retractable fencing system and more integrated system of cameras, sensors and alarms could “enable an open campus while giving security forces better options to protect the complex and its Members should a threat develop,” the review team wrote in the report.

  • Tweaking the chain of command. The report found that the Capitol Police Board’s decision-making process “proved too slow and cumbersome” to effectively respond on January 6, when National Guard troops took hours to arrive on the Capitol grounds to help police clear the halls of Congress. It recommended allowing the Capitol Police chief to request the help of federal law enforcement and the National Guard in emergencies, without first needing the sign-off of the board—an opaque, four-person body that includes the chief, the architect of the Capitol, and the House and Senate sergeants-at-arms, who are appointed by congressional leaders.

In addition, the report recommended an “independent review” of the efficacy of the Capitol Police Board’s “authority” over the department.

  • Background checks, harder access points, and tougher member security, Honore’s team recommended revamping the screening procedures used on campus for legislative staff and congressional employees.

“Requiring background checks for identification card holders and employing card readers more widely throughout the complex would decrease insider threat risks and enhance the safety of all Members, staff, and legislative employees,” according to the report.

The report also suggested repairing and securing the doors and windows around the Capitol that were used by rioters to break into the building, and erecting screening portals for staff and visitors around the complex to make it easier for Capitol Police to monitor visitors seeking to enter the building.

Pointing to the increasing number of threats to members of Congress, the report recommended expanding the Dignitary Protection Division’s ranks to better protect lawmakers at home and in Washington. Currently, only members of leadership have full-time security details.

The report also recommended the creation of a new office to “centrally manage” lawmakers’ travel from their districts to the Capitol, in coordination with state and local law enforcement partners.

According to ABC News, ahead of the report’s release, Republicans have criticized House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s appointment of Honore to conduct the review— pointing to his increasingly partisan tone on Twitter and attacks against Republicans.

“While there may be some worthy recommendations forthcoming, General Honore’s notorious partisan bias calls into question the rationality of appointing him to lead this important security review,” House GOP Leader Kevin McCarthy, (R-California) said in a statement Sunday. “It also raises the unacceptable possibility that the Speaker desired a certain result: turning the Capitol into a fortress.”

Research contact: @abcnews

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