The chairman of the union representing the U.S. Capitol Police lambasted the agency’s leadership Wednesday after the acting chief’s testimony on Capitol Hill about its response to this month’s attack on the Capitol building.
Gus Papathanasiou, chair of the U.S. Capitol Police Labor Committee, took umbrage with acting Chief Yoganada Pittman saying that the department was aware of the threat of violence that day, calling it “unconscionable” that working officers weren’t alerted about such threats.
“The fact they did not relay this information to the officers on duty prior to the insurrection is inexcusable,” Papathanasiou said in a statement Wednesday.
The Jan. 6 storming of the Capitol by pro-Donald Trump demonstrators resulted in five deaths, including a Capitol Police officer, and dozens of injuries and arrests. Additionally, two police officers — one from Capitol Police and another from the Metropolitan Police Department —who responded to the riot have since died by suicide.
Pittman, who was promoted after Chief Steven Sund resigned in the wake of the attack, told the House Appropriations Committee Tuesday that her department knew beforehand of possible bad actors among the thousands protesting Joe Biden’s victory over Trump in the November presidential election.
“By January 4, the department knew that the January 6 event would not be like any of the previous protests held in 2020,” said Pittman, the first Black woman to lead the 2,000-member agency. “We knew that militia groups and white supremacists’ organizations would be attending. We also knew that some of these participants were intending to bring firearms and other weapons to the event. We knew there would be the strong potential for violence and that Congress was the target.”
The union said Pittman’s testimony was “a startling admission” and “has angered and shocked the rank-and-file officers of the Capitol Police.”
Papathanasiou said Pittman testified incorrectly when she told the House committee she ordered the lockdown of the building, arguing that it was actually ordered by an inspector one hour prior to Pittman’s charge.
“The only time I heard Pittman was on the radio,” Papathanasiou said.
Requests for comment from the Capitol Police were not immediately returned.
“The officers are angry and I don’t blame them,” Papathanasiou said. “The entire executive team failed us and they must be held accountable. Their inaction cost one officer his life and we have almost 140 responding officers injured. They have a lot to atone for.”
He said responsible leaders exist within the ranks of the department, but not among those currently in charge.
“We hope Congress recognizes these leaders exist, some of us whom battled side by side with the officers during the insurrection,” Papathanasiou said. “Any decision to recruit the next chief from outside the department would be a significant mistake, in our opinion. Our next leader needs to be shovel-ready on Day One and have the confidence of the officers. There is no time for on-the-job-training given the ongoing threats we are facing. Our officers need leadership they can trust.”