Watchdog Says Capitol Police Need ‘Culture Change’ for Better Threat Response

By Tom Ozimek
Tom Ozimek
Tom Ozimek
Reporter
Tom Ozimek has a broad background in journalism, deposit insurance, marketing and communications, and adult education. The best writing advice he's ever heard is from Roy Peter Clark: 'Hit your target' and 'leave the best for last.'
April 15, 2021 Updated: April 15, 2021

The U.S. Capitol Police (USCP) internal watchdog will testify before lawmakers Thursday about the shortcomings of the law enforcement response to the Jan. 6 Capital breach, with a prepared statement indicating he will broadly recommend a “culture change” of moving USCP away from a police department towards a “protective agency” better poised to prevent and respond to threats.

Michael Bolton, who since 2019 has served as head of the USCP Office of Inspector General, said in prepared remarks (pdf) that his team’s review of the circumstances around the Jan. 6 Capitol breach found shortcomings in USCP—identified as “Department” in his statement—in the areas of intelligence, training, operational planning, and culture.

“In regards to culture change, we see that the Department needs to move away from the thought process as a traditional Police Department and move to the posture as a Protective Agency,” Bolton said.

“A police department is a reactive force. A crime is committed; police respond and make an arrest. Whereas, a Protective Agency is postured to being proactive to prevent events such as January 6th,” he added.

Prior to the hearing, which is set to take place before the Committee on House Administration and will be streamed, Bolton released two flash reports, with a third due on April 30 and others every 30 days or so.

The first report (pdf) examined operational planning for Jan. 6, including a review of the intelligence-gathering process required for the related operational plan.

It paints a picture of a police force that lacked a comprehensive operational plan, whose response was stymied by conflicting interpretations of threat analyses, and that failed to disseminate relevant information from outside sources—including an FBI bulletin warning of potential threats.

According to the report, a Capitol Police task force officer assigned to the FBI Guardian Squad Task Force retrieved the FBI bulletin from an intranet system where it had been posted by the FBI Norfolk Division, and emailed it to an internal Capitol Police email distribution list “late in the evening” on Jan. 5.

But an acting assistant chief told the watchdog that the bulletin “did not make it out of” the email distribution list to the Intelligence and Interagency Coordination Division (IICD) and didn’t reach USCP commanders. Both former Capitol Police Chief Steven Sund and acting Chief Yogananda Pittman said that they didn’t see the FBI bulletin until after the Jan. 6 attack, Bolton said.

“USCP failed to disseminate relevant information obtained from outside sources, lacked consensus on the interpretation of threat analyses, and disseminated conflicting intelligence information regarding planned events for January 6, 2021,” Bolton said in the statement.

Among the flash report’s recommendations are calls for formal guidance requiring USCP employees to communicate any externally sourced intelligence reports or concerns to relevant commanders.

The second flash report (pdf) focused on the Civil Disturbance Unit (CDU) and the Department’s intelligence operations as a whole. It concluded that CDU was “operating at a decreased level of readiness” because it lacked adequate policies and procedures defining responsibilities, duties, composition, equipment, and training.

“CDU was operating at a decreased level of readiness because of a lack of standards for equipment, deficiencies noted from the events of January 6, 2021, a lapse in certain certifications, an inaccurate CDU roster, staffing concerns for the unit, a lack of properly performed quarterly audits, and property inventories not in compliance with guidance,” Bolton said.

The report’s recommendations include a call for better implementation of existing standards around training, and formalization of guidance around the use and staging of equipment.

The third report will focus on threat assessment and the counter-surveillance unit, with follow-on reports that will tackle manpower usage, training, the Security Services Bureau, and the K-9 unit.

USCP issued a response Wednesday to the inspector general report, saying it “welcomes” the review and its recommendations and vowed to “improve its operational readiness and the physical security infrastructure of the Capitol Complex.”

The Department also acknowledged that “much additional work needs to be done.”

Tom Ozimek
Tom Ozimek
Reporter
Tom Ozimek has a broad background in journalism, deposit insurance, marketing and communications, and adult education. The best writing advice he's ever heard is from Roy Peter Clark: 'Hit your target' and 'leave the best for last.'