Capitol Police watchdog says force needs 'cultural change'

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In this Wednesday, Jan. 6, 2021, photo, police form a line to guard the Capitol after violent rioters stormed the Capitol, in Washington. The top watchdog for the U.S. Capitol Police will testify to Congress for the first time about the departments broad failures before and during the Jan. 6 insurrection. Among them was missed intelligence and old weapons that officers didnt feel comfortable using. (AP Photo/John Minchillo)

WASHINGTON – The U.S. Capitol Police force needs “cultural change” after the broad failures of the Jan. 6 insurrection, the top watchdog for the department testified Thursday, pointing to inadequate training and outdated weaponry as among several urgent problems facing the force.

Capitol Police Inspector General Michael A. Bolton has issued confidential monthly reports on the force's missteps since the siege, when hundreds of President Donald Trump's supporters broke into the building and sent lawmakers fleeing for their lives. In a 104-page report obtained by The Associated Press, he casts serious doubt on the force's ability to respond to future threats and another large-scale attack.

Bolton told the House Administration Committee that the Capitol Police needs to improve its intelligence gathering, training, and operational planning. The way the force views its mission also needs to change, he said.

“A police department is geared to be a reactive force, for the most part," Bolton said. "Whereas a protective agency is postured, in their training and planning, to be proactive to prevent events such as January 6th.”

The Capitol Police have so far refused to publicly release Bolton's report — prepared in March and marked as “law enforcement sensitive.” But lawmakers discussed many of its findings at the hearing and agreed that there need to be major improvements. House Administration Committee Chairwoman Zoe Lofgren said the department needs to be stronger and more effective “not just to keep the Capitol and those work here safer, but to keep the men and women who wear its uniform safe.”

Bolton found that the department’s deficiencies were, and remain, widespread: Equipment was old and stored badly; officers didn't complete required training; and there was a lack of direction at the Civil Disturbance Unit, which exists to ensure that legislative functions of Congress are not disrupted by civil unrest. That was exactly what happened on Jan. 6 when Trump supporters violently pushed past police and broke into the Capitol as Congress counted the Electoral College votes that certified Joe Biden's victory.

Bolton's report also focuses on several pieces of missed intelligence, including the force's inconsistent information gathering and an FBI memo sent the day before the insurrection that then-Capitol Police Chief Steven Sund told lawmakers he never saw. That memo, included in the report's appendix, warned of threatening online postings by Trump backers, including one that said Congress “needs to hear glass breaking, doors being kicked in” and blood being spilled.

The Capitol Police said in a statement Wednesday that officials had already made some of the recommended improvements. The siege was “a pivotal moment” in history, they said, that showed the need for “major changes” in how the department operates.