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Capitol Police chief resigning amid criticism over response to pro-Trump mob

The announcement comes just after the head of the department's union called for a "change at the top."
U.S. Capitol Police FY2021 Budget Request
Chief Steven A. Sund testifies during the House Appropriations Legislative Branch Subcommittee hearing on the Capitol Police FY2021 Budget Request, in the Capitol on Feb. 11, 2020.Tom Williams / CQ-Roll Call, Inc via Getty Images file

U.S. Capitol Police Chief Steven Sund is resigning amid criticism of the department's response to rioters who stormed the Capitol in protest of President Donald Trump's election loss.

Sund's resignation will go into effect on Jan. 16, just a few days shy of President-Elect Joe Biden's inauguration, a police spokeswoman said Thursday. The announcement comes shortly after the head of the department's union called for a "change at the top."

Officers are "frustrated and demoralized" with how a lack of leadership undermined the response to the mob, according to a statement from Gus Papathanasiou, the union chairman. Papathanasiou laid the blame on a failure and planning while praising officers for their work.

"We prioritized lives over property, leading people to safety," the statement said. "Not one Member of Congress or their staff was injured. Our officers did their jobs. Our leadership did not. Our Law Enforcement partners that assisted us were remarkable.”

The statement fell just short of calling for the force's chief, Steven Sund, to resign. Sund commended officers earlier Thursday, calling their actions "heroic" and slammed the chaos that erupted as "criminal riotous behavior."

Capitol police response has been criticized for its inability to keep the rioters out of the building. Biden earlier Thursday criticized what he described as a double standard between how police reacted to the pro-Trump mob versus how they treat supporters of Black Lives Matter over the summer.

"No one can tell me that if it had been a group of Black Lives Matter protesting yesterday, they wouldn't have been treated very, very differently from the mob of thugs that stormed the Capitol," he said. "We all know that's true. And it's unacceptable. Totally unacceptable."

In an interview with NBC's "Today" show, former U.S. Capitol Police Chief Terrance Gainer characterized the police response as "failure" and added that it "raises a lot of questions."

"Clearly there's failures," he said. "There has to be a lot of questions asked and answers given. What is very clear is the police underestimated the violent crowd and the size of it, and they overestimated their ability to control it."

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Rioters were able to force their way into the Capitol on Wednesday in the first major breach since the war of 1812, when British soldiers burned the legislature. Trump had spoken to his supporters earlier in the day and encouraged them to head to the Capitol to protest Congress' count of the Electoral College vote.

Authorities were eventually able to clear the building of the mob and allow lawmakers to return to what was previously considered a ceremonial process. Members of the House and Senate worked overnight to certify ballots from all 50 states, confirming Biden's win.

The National Guard has been placed on a 30-day mobilization, which means the Guardsmen will be on the ground through Biden's inauguration on January 20, two defense officials told NBC News.