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'Their inaction cost lives': U.S. Capitol Police union rebukes leadership

The acting Capitol Police chief, Yogananda Pittman, told a House panel that the department had "failed to meet its own high standards, as well as yours."
Image: Supporters of U.S. President Donald Trump gather in Washington
Pro-Trump protesters clash with Capitol Police in Washington on Jan. 6, 2021.Shannon Stapleton / Reuters file

Some U.S. Capitol Police officers sustained brain injuries in the deadly riot on Jan. 6, one officer cracked two ribs and smashed two spinal discs, one will likely lose an eye, and another was stabbed with a metal fence stake.

These were among the claims laid out in a scathing statement Wednesday by Gus Papathanasiou, chairman of the Capitol Police Labor Committee, the officers' union, in response to the acting chief's disclosure Tuesday that her department had "failed" to protect the Capitol from a pro-Trump mob attack. Nearly 140 officers from the Capitol Police and the D.C. Metropolitan Police departments were injured during the attack, Papathanasiou said.

"We have one officer who lost his life as a direct result of the insurrection," the union's chairman said in the statement. "Another officer has tragically taken his own life."

Thousands of protesters, believing false claims that the election had been stolen, marched on the Capitol at the behest of then-President Donald Trump. More than 100 people are facing federal charges in connection with the riot.

In remarks to the House Appropriations Committee on Tuesday, acting Chief Yogananda Pittman said the department knew two days before the attack that members of militia groups and white supremacist organizations would be among those coming to the Capitol and that some of them may be armed. But, she admitted, her team "did not do enough" to prepare.

Papathanasiou said it was "unconscionable" that Capitol Police leaders knew of the potential for violence but did not prepare officers.

"They failed to share key intelligence with officers in advance, they failed to prepare adequately, they failed to equip our officers with a plan and on that very day, they failed to lead," he said. "This was not a 'whole department' failure, but a leadership failure."

A Capitol Police spokeswoman did not immediately return a request for comment.

Pittman, who was not the chief at the time of the attack, told the House panel Tuesday during a closed-door briefing that the department "failed to meet its own high standards, as well as yours." Her predecessor, Steven Sund, resigned after the riot.

"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 lives."