WASHINGTON – About 130 Capitol Police officers have left since the Jan. 6 insurrection, according to the department, which a federal watchdog told a Senate panel Tuesday has led to concerns about overtime and recruiting.
“They are down significantly (in) officers and they need to bring … folks on that can augment that,” Michael Bolton, the inspector general for Capitol Police, told the Senate Rules and Administration Committee.
Bolton told the committee about 200 officers had left. But Capitol Police said 130 officers have left since the first pay period of the year.
About 140 officers were injured during the Capitol riot and five have died since then.
Capitol Police Officer Brian Sicknick died the next day from a stroke. Two others – Capitol Police Officer Howard Liebengood and Metro Police Officer Jeffrey Smith, who responded to the riot – died by suicide days later. Metro Police Officers Gunther Hashida and Kyle DeFreytag, who also responded to the attack, died by suicide in July.
The Senate panel released a June report in conjunction with the Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee that found U.S. intelligence officials failed to warn of potential violence from the mob and delays getting National Guard reinforcements for Capitol Police.
Bolton said morale at the department has improved since then, but that officers are waiting to see what sort of support Congress provides. Congress is still debating funding for the department and the rest of the government for the year that began Oct. 1.
A House task force headed by retired Lt. Gen. Russel Honore, studied Capitol Police and found the force of about 2,000 officers had 233 vacancies and spent 55% of its overtime for the year during its first five months. The April report recommended creating 854 more jobs, including 350 to reduce overtime and 424 to cover duties such as intelligence gathering.
“This work is crucial to securing the work of the Capitol,” said Sen. Amy Klobuchar, D-Minn., who heads the committee.
But other senators voiced concerns about filling the vacancies and increasing funding.
Sen. Roy Blunt, R-Mo., said never getting more than 90% of positions at the department filled could argue for creating slots that don’t require the same training skills.
To give officers immediate help, Bolton the police department and Capitol Police Board are discussing whether to augment police officers in some posts with security guards akin to courtroom security, who could run metal detectors at doors. Such a change could reduce overtime, allow officers their days off and allow training for officers, Bolton said.
Besides contributing to staffing shortages and chronic overtime, the departures are a concern because it takes nearly a year to train new officers for the job guarding Congress and the building, Bolton said.
Hiring an officer requires a year of training at the Federal Law Enforcement Training Center and then on-the-job training with another officer.
“The department is actively recruiting,” Bolton said.
Bolton has completed seven reports about the Jan. 6, making 104 recommendations to improve training and intelligence gathering for the department to prevent another attack. His eighth report, which will be completed soon, will focus on how the department has responded so far, with 30 recommendations completed.
Bolton said a major improvement came with the hiring of a retired Secret Service agent, who has helped plan for major events. Senators praised the response to a Sept. 18 rally of an estimated 450 far-fight protestors. Fences went up and came down quickly after the event.
“They’re cut from a different cloth,” Bolton said of experienced officers trained in intelligence gathering.
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