Demand Progress Education Fund Releases New Report Card and Recommendations
A new report by Demand Progress Education Fund found that the US Capitol Police (USCP) has either failed to comply with or has slow-walked implementing several reform directives from Congress and recommendations by the Government Accountability Office (GAO), all aimed at improving the agency’s accountability. Demand Progress Education Fund published its analysis, Capitol Alert: Assessing the US Capitol Police’s Compliance with Congressional Calls for Accountabilityas the Senate Committee on Rules and Administration and the House Committee on House Administration are preparing for the first joint hearing examining the US Capitol Police Board since the 1940s.
“The January 6 attack on the US Capitol tragically demonstrated the urgent need to modernize the US Capitol Police and improve its emergency preparedness, information sharing, and oversight,” said Taylor J. Swift, senior policy advisor at Demand Progress and author of the report. “Capitol Police leadership has kept us in the dark on how they plan to comply with numerous accountability directives from Congress and recommendations from the Government Accountability Office. Given the Capitol Police’s critical role to protect the US Capitol and all who work and visit there, we identified areas where it has made progress and where it has fallen short to help the USCP improve itself and adapt to new threats.”
The Capitol Alert report examines the US Capitol Police and its Board’s structure and disclosure practices, and also assesses whether the USCP has complied with nine congressional directives to the Capitol Police to reform its practices issued between FY 2019-2023 and 11 reform recommendations issued by the Government Accountability Office (GAO) during that same period of time.
• At the time of writing, we do not know the motives of the assailant. However, it would not be surprising if the ultimate aim was to harm Speaker Pelosi. In this newsletter we have previously discussed the concept of stochastic terrorism, which is “the public demonization of a person or group resulting in the incitement of a violent act, which is statistically probable but whose specifics cannot be predicted.” We condemn all acts of violence, and incitement to violence, against elected officials and their families. We wish Paul Pelosi a speedy and full recovery.
• Political violence is sometimes used as a reason to overreach and curtail political speech. We acknowledge the importance of allowing for criticism of the policies advanced by a politician. Bad political actors have demonstrated a remarkable facility with the use of dog whistles, however. They generate veiled calls for or support of violence that increases the likelihood of violence in such a way as to create some doubt about what they are doing. The traditional media has largely been unable or unwilling to cover this appropriately, and partisan media and partisan actors have amplified these calls.
• We wonder about the role of the extraordinarily well-funded U.S. Capitol Police in this incident. It seems plausible that one of their most visible protectees was a target regardless of whether she was actually present. What does it say about security for other Members of Congress in their homes, workplaces, and elsewhere? What does it say about the USCP’s ability to detect, deter, and address threats? We stand by our concerns that structural problems with the leadership and oversight of the USCP create a fundamental risk to the safety of Congress, a problem that cannot be resolved by throwing money at the problem. We have yet to see any real reforms at the USCP or its oversight board.
• We realize that Congress’s most likely reaction will be to shovel more money at the Capitol Police. The overall funding level for the Legislative branch can’t handle these hundred-million-dollar annual increases for the USCP without undercutting the ability of the Legislative branch to function by constraining funds for all other purposes. (There’s a $100 million increase in the works when the delayed appropriations bill becomes law.) We’d suggest that some of the USCP’s funds start coming from another appropriations subcommittee, like Defense or CJS, because their work includes responding to terrorism and crime threats.
Federal inspectors general routinely publish their findings online. This helps hold federal agencies to account by creating public and internal pressure to address the concerns raised by the IG and creating a record should they fail to fix problems. However, the Capitol Police Inspector General is one of a handful of IGs that withholds their reports from the public. On Monday, Demand Progress wrote to the committees that oversee the Capitol Police to request they direct the Capitol Police Inspector General to publish its final reports online.
Complaints about U.S. Capitol Police operations, including accounts of racist misconduct within the department and managerial abuses of power, have recently been elevated in the wake of the January 6th attack on Congress. Hard information is hard to come by as it is nearly impossible to get any official data on employee misconduct from the department. There is, however, one small exception: the USCP Annual Statistical Summary Report on Office of Professional Responsibility Investigations.
The Annual Statistical Summary Report provides top line numbers on complaints made against US Capitol Police employees. The report indicates how many misconduct investigations occurred in a given year and how many total charges or allegations of misconduct were filed. Its data is broken out by the status of the individual filing the complaint: citizen, outside law enforcement, internal, or anonymous. Starting in 2019, USCP began including figures of how many individual charges/allegations of misconduct were sustained in Office of Professional Responsibility investigations.
Today we are publishing the newly obtained 2020 Annual Statistical Summary Report. (It is generous to call this a report: it is a one-page fact sheet.) We previously published reports dating back to 2009, which is when the first report of this type was published online. We asked for data from prior years, but our request was denied.
Demand Progress, the Lincoln Network, and a coalition of organizations wrote to legislators this week to express our concern and strong opposition to the proposed permanent fencing surrounding the U.S. Capitol.
On January 6th, insurrectionists successfully breached security and stormed the U.S. Capitol with lawmakers, employees, essential workers, and journalists inside. In the aftermath of this attack, Congress began evaluating what needs to be done to ensure this type of attack never happens again. While it is clear security at the Capitol must be reformed, solutions must not come at the expense of open government; the Capitol must remain open to the public.
Acting U.S. Capitol Police Chief Yogananda Pittman released a statement recommending the U.S. Capitol complex be fitted with permanent fencing. To enclose the Capitol campus with permanent security fencing would be a grave error. While there may be times where temporary fencing is necessary, to erect permanent barriers between Congress would be a blow to open democracy.
The safety and security of our legislators and the people who make their work possible is paramount; however it was not an absence of funding or fencing that allowed for the January 6th insurrection. Rather, the success of the attack was a result of mismanagement and poor communication by the entities tasked with keeping the Capitol safe.
The Capitol stands as a symbol of fair and open democracy — closing the Capitol to the public and militarizing Capitol Hill is a sign of weakness and contrary to our democratic ideals as a nation.
The letter can be found here and is also available below:
Congress is expected to enact a “security supplemental” appropriations bill to address the aftermath of the Trump insurrection on January 6. In advance of that legislation, we compiled recommendations for items to include in the supplemental. They are informed by our experiences studying Legislative branch operations over the last decade, including several years of research into the U.S. Capitol Police (USCP).
Demand Progress and the Article One Coalition hosted a webinar with congressional experts on the U.S. Capitol Police on Friday, January 15th, 2021. Panelists included Daniel Schuman, policy director for Demand Progress, the only organization that has spent years looking into the budget and operations of the USCP, and Nicole Tisdale, Founder and Principal for Advocacy Blueprints, who spent 10 years on the House Committee on Homeland Security. The event was moderated by Chris Marquette, a congressional ethics and leadership reporter for Roll Call and the lead beat writer on the USCP.
The insurrection at the U.S. Capitol has thrust the U.S. Capitol Police into the spotlight. They failed to adequately protect lawmakers, staff, essential workers, and journalists against a mob-led insurrection, despite an abundance of resources.
Demand Progress and the Article One Coalition are hosting a webinar with congressional experts who have covered USCP for years to discuss its opaque history and how Congress must reform the USCP.