The police are watching Washington. Where were they last week?


Resources were also not an issue. The United States Capitol Police, or USCP, is one of the best-funded police forces in the country. He’s responsible for security on just 0.4 square miles of land, but this area hosts some of the most high-profile events in US politics, including presidential inaugurations, lying in-state ceremonies, and major protests. . The USCP is well-staffed, with 2,300 officers and civilian employees, and its annual budget is at least $ 460 million, which places it among the 20 best police budgets in the USA. In fact, it is about the size of the Atlanta and Nashville police budgets combined. For comparison, the DC Metropolitan Police Department – which works regularly with the USCP and covers the remainder of the district’s 68 square miles – has a budget of $ 546 million.

The USCP also differs from state and local departments in other important aspects. As a federal agency that has no residents within its jurisdiction, for example, it reports to a private oversight board and Congress – and only Congress has the power to change its rules and budgets. It is also not subject to transparency laws like the Freedom of Information Act, which makes it even more veiled than the more opaque departments elsewhere in the country.

All of this means that there is little public information about the tools and tactics that were available to the USCP before the riots.

But “they have access to some pretty sophisticated stuff if they want to use them,” Stoughton says. This includes resources from other agencies such as the Secret Service, the FBI, the Department of Homeland Security, the Department of the Interior, and the US military. (“We work [on technology] at all levels with just about every agency in the country, ”said the then head of the USCP in 2015, in a rare recognition of the technical know-how of the force.)

What should have happened

With such resources at their disposal, the Capitol Police would likely have made heavy use of online surveillance before January 6. This surveillance typically involves not only looking at online spaces, but also following known extremists who have participated in other violent events. In this case, this would include the “Unite the Right” rally in Charlottesville, Virginia, in 2017 and the protest against coronavirus restrictions in Michigan be understoodl in 2020.

It is not clear exactly what surveillance was going on before the riots. The FBI declined a request for comment and the USCP did not respond. “I would find it hard to believe, however, that an agency that is well funded, adequately staffed and with enough experience to help respond to crowd control situations in Washington has not done what. type of background intelligence collection. said Stoughton.

Ed Maguire, professor of criminal justice at Arizona State University, is an expert on protests and law enforcement. He says undercover officers typically operate in crowds to monitor any development, which he says may be the most effective monitoring tool for dealing with potentially volatile situations – but it would require preparation and planning that were perhaps lacking.

Major events of this type would typically involve a detailed risk assessment, informed by surveillance efforts and FBI intelligence reports. These assessments determine all security, staffing and monitoring plans for an event. Stoughton says what he sees as an inconsistency in officers’ decisions to retreat or not, along with the lack of an evacuation plan and the obvious delay in securing the backup, point to notable errors.

This supports one of the most obvious explanations for failure: the department simply misjudged the risk.

What seems to have happened

It appears that Capitol Police did not coordinate with park police or Metropolitan Police prior to the rally – although the The metropolitan police were staffed to the maximum in anticipation of violence. Capitol Police Chief Steven Sund, who announced his resignation in the wake of the riots, also claims he requested additional National Guard support on Jan.5, although the Pentagon denies it.

The USCP was also accused of racial prejudice, with other police forces. The departments of New York, Seattle and Philadelphia are among those seeking to know if their own officers took part in the assault, and the Capitol police themselves suspended “Several” employees and will investigate 10 officers on their role.

But a significant factor that could have altered the volatility of the situation, Maguire says, is that police clashed with the Proud Boys in the weeks and days leading up to the event, including a violent rally in Salem, Oregon, and the arrest of white supremacist. Group leader Henry Tarrio shattered the right-wing’s assumption that law enforcement was essentially on their side. On January 5, Maguire had tweeted on hardening rhetoric and threats of violence as that assumption began to crumble.



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