U.S. Capitol Police officers who protected the building during the events of Jan. 6 will receive the Congressional Gold Medal, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) announced on Feb. 11.
Officer Brian Sicknick, who was involved in confronting rioters at the Capitol, died the day after the breach, while Capitol officer Howard Liebengood and Metropolitan officer Jeffrey Smith committed suicide days after the riot. Eugene Goodman, another officer, was hailed for successfully guiding Sen. Mitt Romney (R-Utah) away from the mob and back to the Senate chamber on Jan. 6.
“It’s been such a sad time for us, but as we see what is being presented, we also see the extraordinary valor of the Capitol Police who risked and gave their lives to save our Capitol, our democracy, our lives. They are martyrs for our democracy. Martyrs for our democracy, those who lost their lives,” Pelosi told reporters in Washington during a press conference.
“That is why I am putting forth a resolution, introducing legislation to pay tribute to the Capitol Police and other law enforcement personnel who protected the Capitol by giving them a Congressional Gold Medal, the highest honor that Congress can bestow.”
Pelosi’s office later released a draft (pdf) of the legislation.
Legislators previously proposed awarding Goodman the Congressional Medal “for his bravery and quick thinking during” the Capitol breach.
After encountering Romney, Goodman ran into rioters and steered them away from where lawmakers were sheltering in place.
“When he was the only thing standing between Members of Congress and the violent mob, he quickly and selflessly redirected their fury upon himself so those Members could escape. Thanks to his valor, we are here today. From the bottom of my heart, I cannot thank him enough for his bravery and for his dedication to the call of duty,” Rep. Nancy Mace (R-S.C.) said last month.
Pelosi promised on Feb. 11 that members of Congress wouldn’t forget what officers did on Jan. 6.
“The service of the Capital Police force that day brings honor to our democracy and their accepting this reward brings luster to this medal. We must all remember their sacrifice and stay vigilant against what I’ve said before about what Abraham Lincoln said, ‘the silent artillery of time.’ We will never forget,” she said.
Sicknick lay in honor in the Capitol Rotunda last week and was celebrated by lawmakers for his service.
Pelosi in a letter to colleagues said they must never forget the heroics of Sicknick, Liebengood, Smith, and the other officers who were on duty on Jan. 6.
According to the Capitol Police officers union, about 140 law enforcement officers were injured that day.
“I have officers who were not issued helmets prior to the attack who have sustained head injuries,” Gus Papathanasiou, union chairman, said in a statement last month. “One officer has two cracked ribs and two smashed spinal discs and another was stabbed with a metal fence stake, to name some of the injuries.”
“Many more sustained injuries from the assault—scratches, bruises, eyes burning from bear mace—that they did not even bother to report,” D.C. Police Chief Robert Contee told lawmakers during a recent hearing.
Papathanasiou described officers as “angry” that the force wasn’t better prepared for what happened.
The head of the agency resigned in mid-January and was replaced by Yogananda Pittman, who has said the force made mistakes in the days leading up to the breach.
Pittman and other leaders face a vote of no confidence this week, the agency acknowledged in a Feb. 10 statement.
“Though the vote does not compel any specific action, it does speak to the sentiment and concerns of some of our officers that our senior commanders are working to address,” it said.
Papathanasiou said in a statement that the union felt there was no other choice, adding: “The leadership has failed us, and we have paid a terrible price.”