The police officers who guard the U.S. Capitol do not feel supported by department leaders, lack the proper tools to do the job, and consequently are ill-prepared to stave off another attack like the deadly insurrection on Jan. 6, according to a Capitol cop who was there that day.
In fact, things have gotten so bad over the last few months that the 20-year Capitol Police veteran told The Daily Beast he plans to quit the force.
“When you lose a football game, you go in the next day and you talk about what the fuck went wrong,” the officer said, as his two-way radio squawked in the background. “Would you fucking believe that it’s been three goddamn months and they have yet to talk to the officers to say, ‘Hey listen, moving forward this is what we need you guys to do, these are our expectations, this is where you draw the line in the sand.’ We lost the fucking Capitol, and they aren’t doing shit.”
The officer, who requested anonymity in order to speak openly, said morale has hit bottom within the department in the aftermath of the Capitol siege by pro-Trump rioters that left five people dead and almost 150 officers injured. Less than 90 days later, a car intentionally rammed into a Capitol Police checkpoint, killing Capitol Police Officer Billy Evans and injuring another cop. The union chief who represents frontline Capitol Police officers said over the weekend that he expects the ranks will soon be thinned out by mass resignations, something the officer who spoke to The Daily Beast believes is definitely in the offing.
“We’ve got windows at the Capitol that are still broken, that haven’t been fixed and are still boarded up,” the officer said, his voice shot through with obvious anger and frustration. “Go look, you’ll see. Not only is the Capitol not fixed, but the officers aren’t fixed... Something could happen today and the officers still don’t really know what to do if a crowd of 2,000 people are trying to break into the Capitol.”
Even after the April 2 vehicle attack, Capitol Police management still hasn’t taken steps to ensure frontline officers are safe, said the officer.
“We just need to get people prepared for what’s going to happen next,” he said, adding, “We have done nothing. And I hate to say that, but I’m just being honest.”
As Capitol Police officers remain terrified about the possibility of another Jan. 6, federal prosecutors are still working an uphill battle to charge the 800 people who were allegedly involved in the siege. So far, The Daily Beast has counted 397 individuals across 44 states who have been federally charged for participating in the insurrection. Of those, at least 50 alleged rioters are connected to extremist groups—including the Oath Keepers and the Proud Boys—or affiliated with conspiracy theories like QAnon. At least 37 of those arrested are either current or former military members and at least five were employed as law enforcement officers at the time of the insurrection.
Prosecutors believe over a dozen Oath Keepers were involved in a wider conspiracy to recruit, train, and prepare for an attack on the Capitol. At least two of them have also been accused of coordinating with the Proud Boys and other paramilitary groups ahead of Jan. 6 to front any violent members of “antifa.”
While the majority of these Trump supporters only face misdemeanor charges, almost 50 people have been charged with some sort of assault, and nearly two dozen face conspiracy, the most serious charges prosecutors have put forward since January. Some could spend decades in prison if convicted.
Neama Rahman, a former federal prosecutor, told The Daily Beast that while it may seem like federal authorities have a long way to go yet, “three months is not a long time” since investigations “can take months or even years.”
“The Department of Justice has to and wants to send a very strong message here,” he stressed. “This was an attack on the rule of law and our democracy.”
He predicts more rioters will be charged in the coming weeks and months. “I expect that number to continue to increase as more people are identified by federal agents, lay witnesses, and cooperating defendants, and more federal resources become available as perpetrators are arrested and their cases resolve,” he said.
The future of the colossal investigation will likely include flipping witnesses and brokering plea deals that may speed up the process.
“Because of the significant potential federal sentences in these cases, and the overwhelming video and social media evidence against these defendants, I further expect many of them to ‘flip’ and cooperate against the organizers of the Capitol riots,” he said. “This will allow prosecutors to work their way up the ladder and charge the heads of these organizations with conspiracy and sedition charges, even if they did not physically enter the Capitol building.”
But as those cases work their way through the system, the Capitol Police Department remains in a state of disarray that was only made worse by Friday’s attack.
Gus Papathanasiou, the head of the Capitol Police Union, believes Washington simply isn’t doing enough to keep his officers safe. In a Saturday statement, Papathanasiou said the Jan. 6 siege, combined with last week’s deadly vehicle attack, “have left our officers reeling.” The department is 233 officers below its authorized force level of 2,072, he said, and cautioned that this number could soon drop even further, with at least 500 Capitol Police officers becoming eligible for retirement in the next few years.
Papathanasiou is now calling on Congress to fund additional security measures at the Capitol, as its police force weathers “a crisis in morale and force numbers.”
“Many of these officers could put in their retirement papers tomorrow,” Papathanasiou stated. “I’ve had many younger officers confide in me that they’re actively looking at other agencies and departments right now.”
Papathanasiou did not respond to multiple requests for comment from The Daily Beast.
“We appreciate and join in the Union’s support for increased hiring, retaining our current officers and implementing many of the recommended safety enhancements as quickly as possible,” the U.S. Capitol Police told The Daily Beast in an emailed statement.
Flagging morale was already an issue among Capitol Police officers well before Jan. 6, 2021, according to Papathanasiou himself, who in 2018 lamented the “lack of camaraderie and trust” in the “miserable” ranks in the pages of the U.S. Capitol Police Labor Committee’s aptly named newsletter, The Grievance.
“How can we make our Department GREAT again?” Papathanasiou wrote, before answering himself: “Was this Department GREAT to begin with?”
Perhaps not, said the Capitol cop who spoke to The Daily Beast, who believes boosting the department’s manpower means little without significant structural changes including clear direction to the rank and file from above.
“You can hire 500, 600, 1,000 more officers—it doesn’t mean shit unless these guys have the right mindset,” he said.
That’s one of the biggest reasons why certain Capitol Police officers stood by on Jan. 6 and allowed hordes of rioters to storm the building, said the officer, adding that it is embarrassing for him to watch video of those Capitol cops who “did fucking nothing” that day. However, he can understand how a clear lack of direction and support from above, combined with what he described as inadequate equipment, could result in people freezing up.
The officer said the small belt-worn tear-gas canisters and “baby batons” Capitol cops are supplied with were no match for what the Jan. 6 rioters were carrying. And while he doesn’t think every Capitol officer should be packing bear spray, like some of those who stormed the Capitol were, they should have a more effective defensive arsenal at the ready.
“I feel like we failed that day because management failed us,” he said. “I am absolutely planning to put in my papers, and it’s all because of what I just told you.”
Another veteran Capitol Police officer who left the department in 2019 said these issues existed long before the sacking of the Capitol, and isn’t surprised that countless members of the department—both young and old—are now clamoring to get out.
He said he resigned after more than a decade on the job not because of one single, specific event, but an ongoing sense that the department’s higher-ups displayed a type of “command indifference.”
“I don’t know any other way to describe it,” the former officer told The Daily Beast, also speaking on condition of anonymity to avoid professional repercussions in his current position. “I always left work with the feeling that nobody in a position of authority at the agency ever acted in the best interest of the rank and file.”
The Capitol Police is “a weird little agency... driven by a ‘customer service’ mentality with regard to the members of Congress,” he continued, and that it is made up of a lot of people for whom the department was not their first choice.
“There are a lot of grunts who have been around for 15, 20, 25 years,” said the officer. “There are a limited number of opportunities to move up, and that’s a consideration that has to be made. You have to ask the same people to do the same job for years on end, and that wears on people... It’s just a long-term problem and I’m not sure what the solution is, to be honest with you.”