The law enforcement response to the Jan. 6 Capitol riot might best be summed up in one sentence tucked away 66 pages into the 128-page bipartisan Senate report released Tuesday: “An officer reported hearing a Lieutenant repeatedly ask over the radio, ‘Does anybody have a plan?’”
The report by the Senate Rules and Homeland Security Committees, titled Examining the U.S. Capitol Attack: A Review of the Security, Planning, and Response Failures on January 6, outlines the myriad ways officials and frontline officers were caught flat-footed by pro-Trump rioters trying to stop now-President Joe Biden’s electoral win from being certified. Among other shortcomings noted, fewer than 10 Capitol Police officers—out of 1,840 total—are trained to use “less-than-lethal” munitions, just 160 are trained in advanced civil disturbance tactics, and at least one unit found their riot shields and helmets stuck inside a locked bus when they tried to access them.
In all, seven people died as a result of that day, including three cops. As The Daily Beast previously reported, there were plenty of clues—on social media, by activists, and then-President Donald Trump himself—that made clear the protests would not be peaceful.
“We were ill-prepared,” the report quotes one unnamed Capitol Police officer as telling the committees. “We were not informed with intelligence. We were betrayed. We were abandoned by all the deputy chiefs and above that day. We still have not been told where exactly the chiefs were that day and what their [role] was on the 6th. USCP needs to address the 6th openly and honestly. The chiefs need to be held accountable. They need to be under investigation for failure to supervise and failure to take police action.”
Here are some of the most damning parts of the report:
Failure at the Highest Levels
Among others, the committees’ report takes aim at the Department of Justice, designated as the lead federal agency in charge of security preparations and response on Jan 6. However, the report says the DOJ failed to “conduct interagency rehearsals or establish an integrated security plan,” and “never established a point of contact and did not effectively coordinate a response during the attack.”
The Department of Defense was also called out for a lackluster performance. According to the report, DoD “was informed by criticism it received about its response to the civil unrest after the murder of George Floyd during the summer of 2020,” and therefore became skittish about being too heavy-handed. “DoD officials believed it needed ‘control measures’ and ‘rigor’ before deploying [D.C. National Guard] personnel, including a clear deployment plan to avoid the appearance of overmilitarization,” the report states.
Where was the National Guard?
Many have criticized several agencies for not being quicker to call, and approve, the National Guard. The report explains that the Capitol Police chief “has no unilateral authority to request assistance from the National Guard” and must submit a request to the Capitol Police Board for approval. Still, then-Capitol Police Chief Steven Sund never formally requested National Guard support from the Board prior to Jan. 6. Instead, he had “informal conversations” with the House and Senate sergeants at arms—two of the three voting members of the Board—about the “potential need” for Guard members, and never spoke about it with Architect of the Capitol J. Brett Blanton, the Board’s third voting member.
“The members of the Capitol Police Board who were in charge on January 6 did not appear to be fully familiar with the statutory and regulatory requirements for requesting National Guard support, which contributed to the delay in deploying the National Guard to the Capitol,” the report states.
Naturally, social media played its own role in the mess. At 2:55 p.m. on the day of the siege, a journalist tweeted that DoD had “just denied a request by D.C. officials to deploy the National Guard to the US Capitol,” the report notes. However, it says, “no denial had been ordered and senior DoD officials were still analyzing the request.” The mobilization was approved by then-Acting Secretary of Defense Christopher Miller shortly after 3 p.m., beginning with a “mission analysis” to be conducted by DoD officials. Yet, this was delayed as Army Secretary Ryan McCarthy first spent “at least half an hour fielding calls” from worried legislators who had been monitoring Twitter and were left wondering if help was actually on the way.
Phone vs. Email
One of the issues singled out in the report is the FBI’s apparent reliance on email rather than the telephone. On Jan. 5, the bureau’s Norfolk Field Office issued a Situational Information Report—known as an “SIR”—warning agents that people were chatting online about potential violence at the Capitol. “The Norfolk SIR highlighted a particular online thread stating, ‘Be Ready to Fight. Congress needs to hear glass breaking, doors being kicked in, and blood from their BLM and Pantifa slave soldiers being spilled. Get violent . . . stop calling this a march, or rally, or a protest. Go there ready for war…’”
An FBI intel analyst in Norfolk emailed the SIR to the FBI’s Washington Field Office at 6:52 p.m. on Jan. 5, the report explains. Nearly an hour later, an intel analyst in the D.C. Field Office emailed the SIR to various law enforcement agencies in the area, including the Capitol Police and the D.C. Metropolitan Police (MPD), with a note: “Please see the attached SIR released this evening by Norfolk for awareness.”
Acting MPD Chief Robert Contee slammed the FBI for relying on email in such a situation, testifying that “something of this magnitude” should prompt phone calls immediately. “If there was information about…a federal building being overrun…I assure you that I would be on the phone directly with the officials that are responsible for the law enforcement response,” he said.
The Knowledge (and Equipment) Gap
Of the 1,840 sworn officers who make up the Capitol Police, only 160 are trained in “advanced civil disturbance tactics and use of ‘hard’ protective equipment,” according to the report. “Fewer than ten are trained to use USCP’s full suite of less-than-lethal munitions.” And although the department activated seven specialized Civil Disturbance Unit (CDU) platoons for duty on Jan. 6, only four of them had riot helmets, plastic armor, and shields. “The many other USCP officers who fought to defend the Capitol were left to do so in their daily uniforms,” says the report, adding that many hadn’t been trained in basic crowd control tactics since they were new recruits in the academy.
“While some CDU officers were issued special protective equipment, the platoons were not authorized to wear the equipment at the beginning of their shifts,” it continues. “Instead, USCP staged equipment on buses near the Capitol. In at least one instance, when the platoon attempted to retrieve the equipment, the bus was locked, leaving the platoon without access to this critical equipment.”
The “operational failures” that day were heightened by a lack of communication on the part of Capitol Police leadership, explains the report. While USCP brass assembled at a command center “blocks away” from the Capitol, incident commanders responsible for getting instructions to frontline officers were “forced to engage with rioters during the attack.”
“As a result, communications were chaotic, sporadic, and, according to many frontline officers, non-existent,” the report says.
More than 70 Capitol Police officers have resigned or retired since the Jan. 6 riot, according to USCP union boss Gus Papathanasiou. “What keeps me awake at night is not the challenge of hiring and training more police officers, but keeping the officers we have right now,” he said in a statement last month. “We have many officers on the fence about whether to stay with this department.”
In April, a Capitol cop who was there on Jan. 6 told The Daily Beast that he and many other officers don’t feel supported by higher-ups, lack the proper equipment to do the job, and aren’t sure they can fend off another attack like the one they just endured.
“We’ve got windows at the Capitol that are still broken, that haven’t been fixed and are still boarded up,” the officer said in April. “Go look, you’ll see. Not only is the Capitol not fixed, but the officers aren’t fixed… Something could happen today and the officers still don’t really know what to do if a crowd of 2,000 people are trying to break into the Capitol… We just need to get people prepared for what’s going to happen next. We have done nothing. And I hate to say that, but I’m just being honest.”
As for the Senate Rules and Homeland Security Committees’ next steps, there is admittedly more work to be done. Although most government agencies and officials cooperated with their requests, the report points out that the Departments of Justice and Homeland Security have not.
“The Committees will continue to pursue responses from those who have failed to fully comply,” the report states. “The oversight of events related to January 6, including intelligence and security failures, will continue.”