On 06 January 2021, following the defeat of then US President Donald Trump in the 2020 presidential election, a mob of his supporters attacked the United States Capitol Building in Washington, D.C. The mob was seeking to keep Trump in power by preventing a joint session of Congress from counting the electoral college votes to formalize the victory of President-elect Joe Biden.
Five people died either shortly before, during, or following the event: one was shot by Capitol Police, another died of a drug overdose, and three died of natural causes. Many people were injured, including 138 police officers. Four officers who responded to the attack killed themselves within seven months.
1. What was it like?
06 January was nerve-racking. I have dealt with many protests from a large spectrum of people, but I have never seen a group like this before. Usually when a group is taking part in civil disobedience, or if they are aware that they are breaking the law, their body language shows that they know that they are doing wrong, and with any correction from law enforcement, the group breaking the law usually stops.
However, the group that we faced on the sixth was eager to breach the Capitol and acted out of pure lawlessness. It is as if this group did not care if you were a police officer or if you were in their way, they were out for blood and that is what makes it so nerve-racking.
I was lucky to go home at the end of the night, covered from head to toe in remnants of blood, CS Gas, Pepper spray, and other chemicals. I was lucky and I finally reassured my loved ones that I made it home safely despite the madness that had just occurred for the whole world to see.
2. If you could wish for three things to have gone differently what would they have been?
Better distribution of intelligence and communication with the people on the front lines. Many of us had no idea that there were going to be this many people heading towards the Capitol, some of us knew that there were protests in the city, but many of us were not distributed the information necessary to prepare. After the fact, it seemed like there were plenty of signs pointing to violence towards our government after the election, but this information that contained concerning verbiage and other online chatter could have helped us better prepare for what was to come.
Better preparation and organisation of our Civil Disturbance Unit (CDU). We all get trained in civil disturbance at the end of the academy, but I feel like some officers don’t care to be trained on it. We as officers must be trained as much as we can, and on many different certifications, to be the best we can be to help the American people.
Fewer politics surrounding our department. Our department is governed by way too many shareholders. Members of Congress, their staff, and the Sergeant at Arms on the house and senate sides, all have a hand in the way we do our operations. Many times we have to change the way we do things out of convenience to the members or staff.
Sometimes these changes end up becoming multiple officer safety issues but are ignored because of who is at the top of our chain of command. Many times, our leadership is hesitant to make decisions opposing our stakeholder’s interest, due to the stakeholders being the ones who appointed them! If you want a better explanation, I encourage you to read “Courage Under Fire” by Steven Sund. He does a great job of explaining the issues when it comes to people making decisions in the department and government.
3. What needs to change to better manage the situation if it occurs again?
I think that this is a question that could be talked about for hours. What needs to change is everything… we can’t continue to do things the way we used to do them after January 6th. We needed to completely go back to the drawing board in terms of the way that we word our policies, directives, uniforms, police-style, etc. and the sad thing is, funding is not the problem. We are so deep into the pockets of appeasing the members of congress, that we struggle to do what we need to do to protect them and this building.
A word or phrase that is thrown around a lot “Well, we can’t do that. I don’t like the OPTICS of that. The OPTICS could reflect poorly”. It almost makes a lot of us sick, the way they use the word “Optics”. When we stop worrying about what the members, police board, and staff think, that is when we will get things done. Truth is, we have done nothing.
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