With the U.S. Capitol in the background, U.S. Capitol Police officers salute as procession carries the remains of a U.S. Capitol Police officer who was killed after a man rammed a car into two officers at a barricade outside the Capitol in Washington, Friday, April 2, 2021. (AP Photo/Jose Luis Magana)

With the U.S. Capitol in the background, U.S. Capitol Police officers salute as procession carries the remains of a U.S. Capitol Police officer who was killed after a man rammed a car into two officers at a barricade outside the Capitol in Washington, Friday, April 2, 2021. (AP Photo/Jose Luis Magana)

Latest attack pushes U.S. Capitol Police further toward crisis

Hundreds of officers are considering retirement or finding jobs elsewhere

One officer was killed and another injured when a driver slammed into a barricade Friday afternoon. The attack comes after officers were overrun and injured when a violent mob of Trump supporters overran the Capitol on Jan. 6, breaking through insufficient barriers and pushing their way to within steps of lawmakers. One officer died and another killed himself.

Scores of officers are considering early retirement, top leaders have resigned and those in office face increasing criticism. Security concerns over the events of the past four months may alter not only how the department operates, but whether the historically public grounds can remain open.

The head of the Capitol Police union said officers are “reeling” following the death on Friday of Officer Billy Evans, who was on the force for 18 years. He was struck at a Capitol entrance by a man who, according to investigators, suffered from delusions and suicidal thoughts.

Evans’ death comes after Officer Brian Sicknick, who was among hundreds of officers trying to fight off rioters without the necessary equipment or planning, died after the Jan. 6 riot. Officer Howard Liebengood died by suicide shortly afterward.

Hundreds of officers are considering retirement or finding jobs elsewhere, union chairman Gus Papathanasiou said in a statement. “They continue to work even as we rapidly approach a crisis in morale and force numbers,” he said, noting that officers are dealing with “massive amounts of forced overtime.”

Dozens of officers were injured on Jan. 6 and others have been held out of work during an internal investigation into the department’s response, including the officer who shot a 35-year-old woman as she and others were massing at a barricaded doorway. That’s further depleted a force that has more than 200 vacant positions, roughly 10% of its authorized force level.

In the months since the insurrection, many officers have routinely worked 12-hour days or longer to protect the building during Biden’s Jan. 20 inauguration and impeachment proceedings against Trump.

“This rips the scab off and continues to provide a level of uncertainty and worry about the workplace and what’s happening there,” said Rep. Tim Ryan, an Ohio Democrat who chairs a subcommittee overseeing Capitol Police funding. “And I think this is very personal for so many of us who have come to really love and respect the Capitol Police even more than we already had, because of what they did on Jan. 6, and then immediately turning it around to make sure that the inauguration was safe.”

Acting Chief Yogananda Pittman received a vote of no confidence from the union in February, reflecting widespread distrust among the rank and file. Pittman was assistant chief in charge of intelligence during the riot and has admitted she did not see an FBI assessment the day before warning of “war” at the Capitol.

Steven Sund, who resigned in January as the agency’s chief amid scrutiny over whether the police force was adequately prepared for the riot, told The Associated Press that officers he had spoken to were “on edge.”

The grief and crises that have engulfed the Capitol Police are also part of broader social forces that have tested the country, Sund said.

“There’s the impact of the pandemic on the American psyche,” Sund said. “There’s a lot of stuff in social media and a lot of action in reference to the actions of law enforcement. Law enforcement have been attacked in cities around the country. So there’s just a lot of things gearing up that make 2020, 2021 a little unique.”

The Capitol Police are not a typical law enforcement agency. The roughly 2,000 officers are responsible solely for protecting Congress — its members, visitors and facilities, an area of about 16 acres.

The department dates back to the early 1800s, after President John Quincy Adams asked that a police force be established to help protect the building following incidents there. Now they have an operating budget of $460 million.

The driver in Friday’s incident, 25-year-old Noah Green, was shot by officers shortly after emerging from the vehicle wielding a knife, authorities said. Green died later at a hospital. There is no known connection between the insurrection and Green, who described himself in online posts as being under government thought control and being watched.

New concrete barriers are in place around the checkpoint where Evans and a colleague were standing guard north of the Capitol. But the attack underscores that the Capitol will always be a target, said retired Lt. Gen. Russel Honoré, who chaired a task force that made several security recommendations following the insurrection.

“It is the most important building in America, because it’s the seat of our democracy,” Honoré told ABC’s “This Week” on Sunday. “If that building and the people in it don’t function, we no longer have democracy. And whatever price we have to pay to protect it, we need to do it.”

READ MORE: Suspect in fatal Capitol attack suffered delusions, says U.S. official

The task force called for a renewed push to fill the 233 open positions on the force and for Congress to fund 350 new jobs and new fencing systems and other infrastructure. The task force also wants Congress to give the Capitol Police chief new authority to seek National Guard support in a crisis. Sund has alleged that leaders on the three-member Capitol Police Board delayed his calls for Guard help on Jan. 6, which former members of the board have denied.

Papathanasiou, the union chairman, said he supported Honoré’s recommendations and had met with him and his team Thursday, the day before Evans’ death.

“As I explained to him, these improvements are critical, but our first priority has to be retaining our existing officers,” Papathanasiou said. “There are immediate steps Congress can take to address this.”

Rep. Jennifer Wexton, a Virginia Democrat, has been in touch with Liebengood’s family since his death. She called for a program to encourage “peer-to-peer” discussions between officers about the trauma they had incurred separate from mental health professionals called in to meet with officers.

“I just want to make sure we’re taking care of the Capitol Police officers, because that’s the one constant in all of this,” she said. “Whatever we do, the first order of business is not some physical structure, it’s making sure we’re taking care of the officers.”

___

Merchant reported from Houston. Associated Press writers Michael Balsamo, Colleen Long and Lisa Mascaro contributed to this report.

Nomaan Merchant, Eric Tucker, And Mary Clare Jalonick, The Associated Press


Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Want to support local journalism during the pandemic? Make a donation here.

USA

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

The Fraser Valley Bandits chose Brandon University’s Anthony Tsegakele in the first round of the 2021 CEBL Draft. (Submitted)
Fraser Valley Bandits reveal 2021 CEBL Draft choices

Abbotsford-based club selects Quebec’s Anthony Tsegakele in first round

Bat Packs are the newest addition to the FVRL Playground, and have everything you need to learn more about bats, and track them in your neighbourhood. (FVRL image)
Bat Packs at Fraser Valley libraries come with echometer to track bats

Packs are the newest part of the FVRL Playground inventory

Among the items that Dorothy Agnew of Abbotsford received for her recent 100th birthday were gifts from the Abbotsford Police Department and a special cake. (Submitted photo)
Abbotsford woman receives more than 600 cards from public for 100th birthday

Dorothy Agnew’s family had made the request to celebrate the occasion on March 18

A drive-by tribute is planned for Abbotsford soccer figure Barry Crocker at Bateman Park on Saturday. (Facebook)
Drive-by farewell planned for Abbotsford soccer figure

Barry Crocker died on April 2, tribute set for Bateman Park on Saturday

Rick Hansen Secondary Students deliver free samosas to students and staff to celebrate Vaisakhi on Tuesday (April 13).
Abbotsford’s Rick Hansen hosts successful ‘Virtual Vaisakhi’

COVID-19 pandemic does not deter enthusiasm for annual festival at local high school

A screenshot from a Nuu-chah-nulth healing song and performance created in collaboration between Hjalmer Wenstob and Timmy Masso. (Screenshot from YouTube)
WATCH: Tla-o-qui-aht First Nation brothers produce COVID-19 healing song

Hjalmer Wenstob and Timmy Masso share dance and inspiration.

Health Canada headquarters in Ottawa. (Sean Kilpatrick/The Canadian Press)
Health Canada releases guidelines for reducing COVID-19 transmission at home

Improve indoor air quality by opening up your windows and doors, among the encouraged ventilation measures

Flow Academy is not accepting membership applications from anybody who has received a dose of the vaccine, according to a password-protected membership application form. (Submitted image)
B.C. martial arts gym refusing patrons who have been vaccinated, wear masks

Interior Health has already issued a ticket to Flow Academy for non-compliance with public health orders

MP Todd Doherty took to Facebook after his family recently received threats. (Todd Doherty, MP Facebook photo)
‘I don’t run and I don’t hide’: Cariboo MP says RCMP probing threats made against family

Todd Doherty has also notified House of Commons Protective Services

Two men walk past a sign on Main Street in downtown Vancouver, B.C., Monday, April 5, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
Calls for government transparency in COVID data continue as B.C.’s 3rd wave wears on

Social media, where both information and misinformation can spread like wildfire, has not helped

An unidentified B.C. man said, in a human rights complaint, that he was refused a contract job after refusing to wear a mask when asked to by an on-site manager. (Unsplash)
Religious B.C. man lodges human rights complaint after fired for refusing to wear a mask

Worker’s claim that ‘to cover up our face infringes on our God-given ability to breathe’ dismissed by B.C. Human Rights Tribunal

This 2013 Dodge Ram 1500 was stolen from Black Creek Motors at approximately 2 a.m. Sunday, April 11. Photos via blackcreekmotors.com
VIDEO: B.C. car dealer posts clip of thieves towing a truck right off his lot

Video shows one white truck towing another off Vancouver Island lot

Cannabis bought in British Columbia (Ashley Wadhwani/Black Press Media)
Is it time to start thinking about greener ways to package cannabis?

Packaging suppliers are still figuring eco-friendly and affordable packaging options that fit the mandates of Cannabis Regulations

Most Read