You can't even come into the Capitol with a purse, without it being screened. How can you break into the Capitol and walk around with flagpoles? — California Democrat Rep. Karen Bass
You can't even come into the Capitol with a purse, without it being screened. How can you break into the Capitol and walk around with flagpoles? — California Democrat Rep. Karen Bass
There's a reckoning coming for the congressional police force that allowed the worst breach of the US Capitol since the British burned the building down in 1814
  • The US Capitol Police is facing a backlash after violent mobs supporting President Donald Trump forced their way past security while lawmakers inside were debating the 2020 Electoral College results.
  • Key Democratic leaders are demanding resignations from top officials because of the riots while both parties are promising investigations into the historic security breakdown.
  • On Thursday night, the Capitol's chief of police Steven Sund submitted his resignation after lawmakers called for him to step down.
  • At the center of the controversy is a police force that dates back to 1828, when "Capitol watchmen" patrolled the grounds. Since then, the force has gotten much bigger and more professional.
  • The force tries to walk a fine line between protecting Congress and the public and keeping the doors of the Capitol open for visitors to see democracy in action.
In the aftermath of Wednesday's melee, there's plenty of blame going around Washington about what went wrong and who's responsible for a riot that left five people dead, including a Trump-supporting Air Force veteran shot by a police officer mere steps from the House floor. Top lawmakers are calling for resignations and launching investigations into the breakdown. Washington insiders say to expect dramatic changes to security at the US Capitol and the police force that protects it.

"You can't even come into the Capitol with a purse, without it being screened. How can you break into the Capitol and walk around with flagpoles?" said California Democrat Rep. Karen Bass on CNN.


Heads are already rolling.

... The Capitol Police force dates back to 1828, when four "Capitol watchmen" were given the authority to enforce the law at the Capitol and its grounds. The agency now employs more than 2,300 officers and civilian employees and has an annual budget of about $460 million.

They've become more professional and better trained in recent decades. Back in the 1960s, the force was largely made up of part-time police officers, some of whom were also students working for members of Congress, said former Senate Historian Donald Ritchie. Harry Reid, the Nevada Democrat who went on to be the Senate Majority Leader, worked as a Capitol Police officer while he was putting himself through law school.

... The force hires officers who are between the ages of 21 and 37 at the time of their appointment, according to the agency's website. They complete their training at the US Capitol Police Training Academy and the starting salary is $64,173.

... More than 50 Capitol Police and Washington Metropolitan Police were injured during Wednesday's attack, CNN reported. One Capitol Police officer died Thursday as a result of the violence, according to CNN. A Capitol Police officer shot a woman during the invasion who later died from the injury, according to a statement from Sund. That employee has been put on administrative leave pending an investigation.

Meanwhile, politicians, law enforcement experts and the public questioned the force's readiness and their response to the breach even as many of them blamed President Donald Trump for emboldening the mobs that overtook the Capitol.

"They're not supposed to get as far as they did. And someone needs to explain why that happened," former US Capitol Police Chief Terrance Gainer told WTOP.

"The fact that they appear to have been so ill-equipped, embarrassing is too polite a word. It's inexcusable," said Douglas Smith, who was assistant secretary for the US Department of Homeland Security during the Obama administration.


Either they were just "woefully unprepared," their leadership gave them the directive to let the rioters blow off steam, or they're "absolutely incompetent" almost 20 years after the Sept. 2001, terrorist attacks, Smith said.

"I don't even know where one begins at just what a catastrophic failure of operations we saw yesterday. Every possible thing that went wrong for them, it went wrong," he said.

... "Why were they overwhelmed?" Bass said on CNN. "Everyone knew this was going to happen. Why weren't they tracking social media? Why frankly, were the protesters, rioters terrorists, why weren't they infiltrated? Why wasn't there undercover police officers that were there? This is the kind of thing that happens at other types of street protests." ... Republicans are calling for more oversight, too. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell demanded that "a painstaking investigation and thorough review must now take place and significant changes must follow" the Trump-fueled riot at the Capitol.