Capitol Police union deliver ‘overwhelming’ vote of no confidence in leadership: ‘The bosses can’t be trusted’

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WASHINGTON, DC – The fallout of the January 6th riot at the Capitol Building continues, as a recent vote of “no confidence” came from the U.S. Capitol Police Labor Union in regard to the Capitol Police senior leadership.

Earlier in February, the police union delivered an “overwhelming” vote of no confidence in relation to Acting Chief Yogananda Pittman, which reportedly 92% of the Capitol Police’s rank and file members voted in said manner.

There’s been several shake-ups within the Capitol Police in the time that has elapsed since the January 6th riot. The day after the riot, Capitol Police Chief Steven Sund resigned and was quickly followed by the then-sergeants-at-arms.

Since Pittman has taken the helm of Acting Chief for the police department, she acknowledged in January that the Capitol Police, “failed to meet its own high standards as well as yours,” during a Congressional testimony delivered after the riot.

During this prepared testimony, Acting Chief Pittman alleged that aspects related to lacking manpower, supplies, inefficient communications plans, and also a failure to follow through with a lockdown order she issued during the siege were contributing factors to how police responded to the riot when it was ongoing.

However, the U.S. Capitol Police Labor Union pointed the proverbial finger at a majority of leadership.

Outside of the 92% vote of no confidence in Acting Chief Pittman, the police union also voted no confidence in the following Capitol Police leaders:

Assistant Chief Thomas, 96%; Acting Assistant Chief Gallagher, 84%; Deputy Chief Bowen, 85%; Deputy Chief Pickett, 91%; Deputy Chief Waldow; 64%; and Captain Ben Smith, 97%.

In a press release related to the votes of no confidence, the police union explained the rationale for embarking upon this effort to understand where the union members stand on how leadership handled the January riot:

“The board took this unprecedented step after reviewing details of the events on, and leading up to, January 6th and the subsequent deaths of 6 people, and injuries to approximately 140 Capitol and Metropolitan Police officers.”

Union Chairman Gus Papathanasiou delivered the following statement following the votes of no confidence:

“The results of our No Confidence vote are overwhelming because our leadership clearly failed us. We know because we were there.”

“Our leaders did not properly plan for the protest nor prepare officers for what they were about to face.  This despite the fact they knew days before that the protest had the potential to turn violent.”

In response to the recent vote of no confidence, Acting Chief Pittman afforded the following response:

“It’s been just over one month since one of our nation’s darkest days, and the trauma is still incredibly raw and difficult for the many officers who fought heroically on the 6th. Since being sworn in on January 8th, my executive team and I have made the well-being of our officers our top priority.”

“While progress has been made, more work remains. And I am committed to ensuring every officer gets what they need and deserve.”

Much of this blowback against Acting Chief Pittman seems to be linked to her admitting before Congress that Capitol Police leadership knew that there was going to be trouble on January 6th, but essentially didn’t prepare or inform the rank and file. 

We at Law Enforcement Today reported on when that news broke in late January. 

Here’s that previous report. 

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WASHINGTON, DC — In a stunning admission, the acting chief of the U.S. Capitol Police (USCP) said department leadership knew an incident might occur on Jan. 6, but failed to prepare for it or warn their officers about the potential for deadly violence.

Now, the Capitol Police’s union head is calling for her to be replaced even though she was not the chief during the Jan. 6 attack on the Capitol building.

USCP Acting Chief Yogananda Pittman formally apologized to Congress on Tuesday for her department’s failure to properly prepare for the Jan. 6 riot at the Capitol building.

Pittman replaced former USCP Chief Steven Sund, who resigned on Jan. 16. The former chief also admitted he was aware there was a “potential for some violent altercations” on Jan. 6.

However, Sund had accused House and Senate security officials of hindering multiple efforts before and during the Capitol riot to call in the National Guard, according to The Hill.

Sund said he asked House and Senate security officials in the days before Congress was set to count the Electoral College votes on Jan. 6 to allow him to request the D.C. National Guard to be on standby in case troops were needed ahead of the pro-Trump protests.

During an interview with The Washington Post, Sund claimed security officials denied his request. He said House Sergeant-at-Arms Paul Irving wasn’t comfortable with the “optics” of declaring an emergency ahead of the protests and that Senate Sergeant-at-Arms Michael Stenger recommended informally requesting the Guard to be ready.

Sund said:

“We knew it would be bigger. We looked at the intelligence. We knew we would have large crowds, the potential for some violent altercations. I had nothing indicating we would have a large mob seize the Capitol.”

The former chief then said during the interview that he made six calls for assistance, which were either denied or postponed. Once the mob reached the Capitol at about 12:40 p.m., it only took about 15 minutes for the west side perimeter to be breached. He then said:

“If we would have had the National Guard, we could have held them at bay longer, until more officers from our partner agencies could arrive.”

Sund said during the interview that around 2:26 p.m., he called the Pentagon and requested backup. However, he claimed a top Army official said he couldn’t recommend Army Secretary Ryan McCarthy authorizing deployment, saying he didn’t “like the visual of the National Guard standing a police line with the Capitol in the background.”

The first National Guard personnel ended up arriving at 5:40 p.m., after four of the now five deaths during the riot had already occurred.

However, the Associated Press reported that Sund had actually declined the Pentagon’s offer to provide National Guard troops to supplement the Capitol police three days prior to the riot.

Pentagon officials said Capitol Police did not request D.C. National Guard ahead of the protest nor ask for a riot contingency plan involving the Guard. According to The Washington Post, Pentagon spokesman Jonathan Hoffman said:

“We rely on Capitol Police and federal law enforcement to provide an assessment of the situation. And based on that assessment that they had, they believed they had sufficient personnel and did not make a request.”

Sund told NPR in an interview that the insurrection had been a sophisticated attempt to siege the complex:

“This was not a demonstration. This was not a failure to plan for a demonstration. This was a planned, coordinated attack on the United States Capitol.”

Still, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) had called for the resignation of Sund, saying:

“There was a failure of leadership at the top.”

Pelosi announced that retired Lt. Gen. Russel Honoré will lead an investigation into the security failures at the Capitol.

Both sergeant-at-arms also resigned after being pressured by lawmakers.

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On Jan. 26, Pittman spoke before the House Appropriations Committee and apologized to members of Congress for the deadly attack on Jan. 6. She said:

“Let me be clear: The department should have been more prepared for this attack.”

Pittman acknowledged that Capitol Police administration knew by Jan. 4 that there was a “strong potential for violence” from some attendees:

“We also knew that some of these participants were intending to bring firearms and other weapons to the event. We knew that there was a strong potential for violence and that Congress was the target.”

Although Pittman was not chief at the time of the riot, she offered an apology for the day’s tragic events saying that the Capitol Police “failed to meet its own high standards as well as yours.”

However, CNN reported that one of its sources said Pittman was the operational chief the day of the siege at the Capitol and “never took control of the radio or commanded officers what to do in any way, shape or form.”

Pittman said that Sund did indeed request the Capitol Police Board, a three-member oversight body, on Jan. 4 to declare a state of emergency for Jan. 6 and to request National Guard assistance.

However, she said the board, which includes the House and Senate sergeants-at-arms, denied both requests. Pittman further confirmed that Sund was encouraged to contact the D.C. National Guard to see how personnel could be sent to the U.S. Capitol on short notice.

Pittman said Sund did make contact and also spoke with D.C. Police Chief Robert Contee.

However, rank-and-file Capitol officers were not informed about the potential for violence on Jan. 6.

For example, while officers were ordered to pick up helmets, they did not know why they were needed and were not given directions for their use or storage, according to a CNN report.

Some officers put the heavy helmets into their lockers while others kept them near their posts.

Five officers who spoke on condition of anonymity to CNN said they felt betrayed by police leadership. One said:

“There was no planning. No pre-planning. I just don’t understand. For the life of me, why not have the same precautions as we did with other demonstrations?

“Our management was completely … nobody knew what the hell to do. Nobody was giving direction on what to do.”

Another said:

“I feel betrayed. They didn’t even put us in a position to be successful.”

On Jan. 11, Pittman released a statement confirming several Capitol Police officers were suspended for violating the department’s policies. The statement read in part:

“The Department also has been actively reviewing video and other open-source materials of some USCP officers and officials that appear to be in violation of Department regulations and policies.

“Our Office of Professional Responsibility will investigate these behaviors for disciplinary action, up to, and including, termination.  Several USCP officers have already been suspended pending the outcome of their investigations.

“The investigation of the January 6 riot is continuing in collaboration with numerous law enforcement agencies and the USCP, along with its law enforcement partners, are aggressively working to identify and arrest those involved in the destruction of property at the U.S. Capitol Complex.

“It is our intention to prosecute them to the fullest extent of the law.”

The chairman of the USCP Fraternal Order of Police released a blistering statement saying there was shock after Pittman made what they called a “startling admission.”

Chairman Gus Papathanasiou called the revelation that leadership had prior knowledge of the threat of violence “unconscionable” and said in part:

“The disclosure that the entire executive team (former Chief Sund, now Acting Chief Pittman, and Assistant Chief Thomas) knew what was coming but did not better prepare us for potential violence, including the possible use of firearms against us, is unconscionable.

“The fact they did not relay this information to the officers on duty prior to the insurrection is inexcusable.”

Papathanasiou also noted in the statement:

“We have one officer who lost his life as a direct result of the insurrection. Another officer has tragically taken his own life.

“Between USCP and our colleagues at the Metropolitan Police Department, we have almost 140 officers injured.

“I have officers who were not issued helmets prior to the attack who have sustained brain injuries. One officer has two cracked ribs and two smashed spinal discs. One officer is going to lose his eye, and another was stabbed with a metal fence stake.”

Papathanasiou also disputed Pittman’s contention that she was the one who ordered the lockdown:

“Acting Chief Pittman stated that she ordered the lockdown. To be clear, it was actually Inspector Loyd who initially ordered the Capitol lockdown approximately 1 hour prior to Chief Pittman’s order.

“That was the only time that day I heard Acting Chief Pittman on the radio.”

Papathanasiou further states:

“The entire executive team failed us, and they must be held accountable. Their inaction cost lives.

“Our Union has long advocated for more training, more staff and better equipment, only to be repeatedly ignored by our leadership. Yet, Acting Chief Pittman now blames these glaring inadequacies for contributing to the failure to protect the Capitol on January 6th.

“We have leaders in this department who have the support of the front-line officers. They can implement the changes we need to make, but those leaders are not at the Chief or Assistant Chief level, nor possibly the Deputy Chief level.”

He concluded:

“Our officers need leadership they can trust.”

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