One year after the chaos of Jan. 6, Capitol Police Lt. Ted Hopkins says he still gets fired up every time he remembers the violent events that unfolded on the steps of the Capitol Building and inside the halls of U.S. democracy.
“The overarching feeling was anger,” Hopkins said in an interview. “I think the thing I remember most and every time I start talking about it again, is just how mad I am. I'm still mad."
Hopkins is one of many officers grappling with the ongoing anger at the rioters.
Also hindering the department, morale among rank and file officers remains low and the department is just as strained as it was a year ago, police officers say.
Capitol Police officials say conditions are improving, but admit they remain woefully understaffed and are still trying to address the mental health issues that have plagued the department. The confusion and stress suffered by some officers during the riot — which left five people dead and about 140 officers injured — has persisted. Two of those deaths were officers who responded to the attack and then died by suicide shortly after.
Two officers, who spoke with NBC News, expressed frustration over a lack of apparent changes and the ongoing demand of overtime as the agency continues to lose officers. Capitol Police chief Thomas Manger told a Senate panel on Wednesday that more than 150 officers have retired or resigned in the past year.
“I don't feel like you can totally heal or have closure to something until you have accountability,” Capitol Police officer Harry Dunn said. “Until you know the full picture of what happened. We still don't even know what happened.”
The partisan divide on the attack has also rattled Capitol Police. As Democratic House leaders mark the day with activities on its one-year anniversary, no Republican leaders attended.
“I don't understand how people can look at that and say this was tourism, or something like that. I mean, these people showed up armed, they showed up wearing body armor and with helmets on, this is not normal tourist attire,” Hopkins said, referring to a quote last year from a Republican lawmaker who called the rioters tourists. “These people showed up with the intent to do something. And to me, it's impossible to deny that.”
Dunn said he’s concerned over polls released in the past year that indicate a significant number of Republican voters saw the attack as a legitimate protest. It's hard to continue protecting the building if that belief still persists, he said.
“If you put a fence around anything, that helps,” Dunn said in an interview with NBC News. “But can you really get rid of ideas? How do you get rid of an idea of something?”