At Joint HSGAC & Rules Oversight Hearing, Portman Presses Current & Former Capitol Complex Security Officials on Preparedness on January 6

“I Appreciate the Sacrifice & the Bravery of That Day but I Think We Also Owe it to Those Officers to Provide Them the Training & Equipment They Need to Protect Themselves & to Protect the Capitol”

WASHINGTON, DC – Today, during a joint oversight hearing to examine the security failures that led to a breach of the U.S. Capitol on January 6, 2021, U.S. Senator Rob Portman (R-OH), Ranking Member of the Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee, questioned the former Chief of the U.S. Capitol Police, Steven Sund; the Chief of the Metropolitan Police Department, Robert Contee; and the former Senate Sergeant at Arms and Doorkeeper, Michael Stenger; on the lack of Capitol Police preparedness on January 6. Portman made clear that the Capitol Police Officers were owed the proper training and equipment to ensure that a tragedy like what occurred on January 6 will not happen again at the Capitol.

A transcript of the exchange can be found below and a video can be found here.

Portman: Thank you, Mr. Chairman. First of all, with regard to the conversation we just had on the discrepancies with regard to National Guard assistance, I would request that both Chief Sund, you, and Mr. Irving provide us with those phone records. I know there’s been some interviews that have been conducted but I’m not sure we have the phone records and it seems that would clear up some of the confusion. I want to shift gears a little bit and talk about preparedness. Chief Sund, in your testimony you talked about the need for better intelligence and better coordination, that was your conclusion. And I think that’s true and certainly everything we have learned indicates that was part of the problem. But what about preparedness? We’ve received information that, prior to January 6, Capitol Police Officers were not trained on how to respond to an infiltration of the Capitol building. Is that correct, Mr. Sund?”

Steven A. Sund, Former Chief of Capitol Police: “When you talk about infiltration, you talk about a large insurrection like we saw on the January 6, no.”

Portman: “And why not? Why wouldn’t we be prepared for an infiltration of the Capitol given the risk that’s out there? I would say to Mr. Irving and Mr. Stenger, both of you have had distinguished careers with the Secret Service, I would ask you all to just give me a quick yes or no answer, does the Secret Service have training regarding infiltration, as an example, of the White House? Yes or no? Mr. Stenger? Mr. Irving? I’ll take that as a yes. Okay, Mr. Stenger are you yes also?”

Michael C. Stenger, Former Sergeant at Arms and Doorkeeper: “Yes.”

Portman: “Okay, well that seems obvious that you would have training on responding to an infiltration. So I think, if nothing else comes out of this process, we’ve got to figure out how to deal with, again, the real danger that is out there, and it seems to me that the intelligence reports but also the previous demonstrations would indicate a need for that kind of training. Let me ask you about something else if I could, Mr. Sund, and that has to do with the U.S. Capitol Police Officers that I saw on video and the world saw, fighting against this attack in street uniforms or soft uniforms. Many of them did not have riot gear. I’m told by contrast, DC Metropolitan Police Department provides all of its officers with such gear, including helmets, shields, gloves, gas masks. Having seen those incredibly disturbing videos and photographs of your brave officers attempting to hold the line to defend the Capitol without that kind of riot gear, are all Capitol Police Officers outfitted with riot gear?”

Mr. Sund: “No they are not, sir.”

Portman: “They’re not and why are they not?”

Mr. Sund: “So if you look at the way we outfit our officers, it’ll probably be very similar to, I think you’ll find even with Metropolitan and I’d been with Metropolitan for a number of years, they’ll have a certain number of officers, CDU Platoons as they’re called. It’s not the entire force that’s outfitted to the Level One CDU, which is the big protective gear: the helmets and things like that. So we outfit a number of our, we have seven CDU platoons that can activate. Four of those platoons, that’s 40 people to a platoon, are activated to what we call the level one full CDU gear and equipment. It requires extensive costs, extensive training to keep and maintain that level. For us, a number of our officers are posted in interior posts, screen posts, things like that where that gear wouldn’t do anything for them in a fight and wouldn’t provide them any support. So we have determined up till January 6 that that number of CDU platoons had sufficed for all the demonstrations that we had to deal with them in the Capitol.”

Portman: “Mr. Sund, I would just say obviously those officers who you say had interior posts needed it that day, so it’s not accurate to say they didn’t need it but I know that you activated seven of the Civil Disturbance Unit platoons and then only four of them had riot gear. I don’t know why you would have a Civil Disturbance Unit platoon that didn’t have riot gear but you’ve just testified that only four of them had it. Is that correct?”

Mr. Sund: “That’s correct and just one additional point, since I’ve been Chief I’ve actually pushed for every member in the department to have riot helmets. I had ordered those back in September and we had been looking at delays because of COVID from the manufacturer getting them delivered. And they actually just started being delivered January 4 and distributed to our officers just days before this with limited numbers being given to the officers prior to this event.”

Portman: “Yeah too late for many of those officers. Chief Contee, the comment was made that the Metropolitan Police does not all have riot gear. Is that true? I thought that the Metropolitan Police Officers did have access to riot gear. Could you comment on that?”

Robert J. Contee III, Acting Chief of Police for Metropolitan Police Department: “Yes, so we have seven platoons that have the hard gear but all of our offices have ballistic helmets, all of our officers have batons, all of our officers are deployed with gloves and gas masks, so our entire department are deployed with that level but when you talk about the hardened -- all of the other extras, we have seven platoons that have the additional -- that’s a different layer of detachment.”

Portman: “But every officer has a helmet, every officer has the protective gloves, every officer has the baton, is that correct?”

Chief Contee: “And gas masks, that is correct.”

Portman: “It appeared to the Metropolitan Police Department, I’m told, that the Capitol Hill Police Officers did not have the training and civil disturbance tactics that they had. That’s what I was told by some of the interviews that we’ve had. Chief Contee, is that correct?”

Chief Contee: “Yes, I’ve heard the same thing with respect to the training of the US Capitol Police Officers.”

Portman: “Are all of your Metropolitan Police Officers trained in civil disturbance tactics?”

Chief Contee: We have platoons that are trained for every patrol district and a special operations division. Some officers do not have the civil disturbance training. Those officers generally work traffic duties or assignments back on patrol. If I could add too, one other thing, all of our officers, when they leave the training academy, they get the basic civil disturbance unit training. So all of our officers do get the basic training, but we might have some numbers, for example, who have been on for 30 years and they haven’t been CDU trained, they work back on a patrol district. All members coming out of the academy they receive a civil disturbance unit training.”

Portman: Mr. Sund is that true with the Capitol Hill Police Officers also? Are they all trained in civil disturbance tactics as they go through their training?”

Mr. Sund: “That was a process being implemented. I can check and let you know if that’s been fully implemented with the recruits coming out of the academy. That was one of the initiatives I was working on.”

Portman: “So, we were working on that but as far as you know this training was not being provided even for new officers, much less for those already there, is that correct?”

Mr. Sund: “I believe the new officers coming out were but I just need to confirm that.”

Portman: “Yeah I think the bottom line here is that unfortunately, our officers were not given the proper training with regard to infiltration of the building or the complex, with regard to dealing with civil disturbance, and they didn’t have the equipment necessary to push back and most importantly to protect themselves, so my hope is that, again, one of the ways that this joint hearing and this committee report can be helpful is to bring the Capitol Police Department up to speed. And look, I appreciate the sacrifice and the bravery of that day, but I think we also owe it to those officers to provide them the training and equipment they need to protect themselves and to protect the Capitol. Thank you, Mr. Chairman.”

 

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