Feb 24, 2021 - Politics & Policy

Acting Capitol Police chief: Officers were unsure of lethal force rules on Jan. 6

Capitol surrounded by fencing

Photo: Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

Acting U.S. Capitol Police Chief Yogananda Pittman wrote in prepared remarks for a House hearing on Thursday that officers in her department were "unsure of when to use lethal force" during the Jan. 6 insurrection.

Why it matters: Capitol Police did deploy lethal force on Jan. 6 — shooting and killing 35-year-old Ashli Babbit — but have faced questions over why officers appeared to be less forceful against pro-Trump rioters than participants in previous demonstrations, including those over Black Lives Matter and now-Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh.

  • "We have provided guidance to officers since January 6th as to when lethal force may be used consistent with the Department’s existing Use of Force policy. The Department will also implement significant training to refresh our officers as to the use of lethal force," Pittman wrote.
  • "We also learned that the Department’s less lethal munitions were not as successful in dispersing insurrectionists in the attack, and we have already begun to diversify our less lethal capabilities," she added.

The big picture: Pittman said that training for USCP officers is being restructured to better prepare for breaches of the Capitol.

  • "[T]he Department recognized that its largely focuses on keeping unauthorized persons out of buildings on the Capitol Complex and not scenarios in which a building has been breached," she wrote.
  • Pittman also noted that USCP "completing an assessment of the Capitol’s physical securities to ensure any vulnerabilities are identified and addressed."

Pittman has previously contended that USCP's shortcomings on Jan. 6 were a result of understaffing, issues with supply management, delayed National Guard assistance and mismanaged lockdown procedures.

  • She repeated her assessment in her testimony that "a lockdown was not properly executed" on Jan. 6, but argued that "at the end of the day, the USCP succeeded in its mission."
  • "It protected Congressional Leadership. It protected Members. And it protected the Democratic Process. At the end of a battle that lasted for hours, democracy prevailed."

Read the full statement.

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