File photo violent rioters, loyal to President Donald Trump, storm the Capitol in Washington. ( AP Photo )
File photo violent rioters, loyal to President Donald Trump, storm the Capitol in Washington. ( AP Photo )

Hire more police officers, improve intelligence capability: Capitol riot review

The report acknowledges “institutional challenges unique to securing the Capitol,” including “the inherent tension between public access and physical security.”
Bloomberg |
PUBLISHED ON MAR 08, 2021 06:24 AM IST

US House members on Monday will receive closed-door briefings with details of a top-level review that calls for security improvements to prevent another breach of the Capitol.

Briefings from the task force led by retired Army Lieutenant General Russel Honore will be given to members of both parties, a person familiar with the matter said.

Recommendations in the draft report include hiring more Capitol Police officers, streamlining the force’s command structure, improving its intelligence capability, and upgrading fences and security surveillance. It even suggests restoring horse-mounted patrols to the Capitol complex that were disbanded in 2005.

The report acknowledges “institutional challenges unique to securing the Capitol,” including “the inherent tension between public access and physical security.” The complex is currently ringed by miles of temporary fencing topped by razor wire.

Word of the briefings came after House Republican leader Kevin McCarthy issued a statement critical of Honore, including a suggestion that he’d been chosen by Speaker Nancy Pelosi to reach a desired result: “turning the Capitol into a fortress.”

Pelosi said last week that she’d received Honore’s draft of an initial security review of the Capitol complex security in the wake of the Jan 6. assault by supporters of former President Donald Trump. “It’s going to take more money to protect the Capitol,” she said.

The report says the breach showed “the need to immediately improve the security” of the Capitol complex and of members of Congress. Those proposals include:

  • Developing a “quick reaction force” capability to aid the Capitol Police.
  • Hiring an additional 350 Capitol Police officers to augment the 1,200-member force; improving how the force develops and disseminates intelligence on potential Capitol attacks.
  • Buying “mobile” or easily retractable fencing to surround the Capitol building and legislative office complexes.
  • Changes in how the Capitol Police’s board operates in emergencies and empowering the force’s chief “to initiate timely augmentation” in such situations. That should include immediate approval if the Capitol Police chief requests backup from the National Guard.
  • Approving more money to enable the sergeants at arms for both chambers to procure security systems for all member district offices and residences.
  • A new screening system of background checks for members, staff and others before receiving ID cards to moving around the Capitol complex.

While the draft doesn’t name a price tag, Pelosi has said a supplemental appropriations bill will be needed to boost spending on Capitol security and that work on drafting the legislation has started.

Pelosi commissioned Honore to lead the task force on Jan. 15, with a brief to look at security infrastructure, inter-agency processes, and command and control. She called him “a respected leader with experience dealing with crises.”

Honore, 73, is credited with turning around the federal response to Hurricane Katrina in 2005. He has experience dealing with the interaction between military and civilian authorities and with security in the Washington area.

Pelosi’s call for an independent commission has some bipartisan support, yet the effort risks getting tangled in the bitter aftermath of Trump’s impeachment by Democrats over the deadly assault.

‘Political Bias’

McCarthy, in his statement, questioned Honore’s “political bias because of statements he made before his review,” including an “inflammatory accusation that Capitol Police officers themselves were complicit in the attack.”

“While there may be some worthy recommendations forthcoming, General Honore’s notorious partisan bias calls into question the rationality of appointing him to lead this important security review,” McCarthy said.

Pelosi has called for an independent commission to investigate the Capitol insurrection, similar to one set up in the aftermath of the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks on New York and Washington. But an initial draft of a bill to create such a panel is entangled in partisan fights, including over how many seats each party would get on the commission.

Fencing Options

Aside from a “robust Quick Reaction Force,” the Capitol also needs “a fully integrated system of obstacles, cameras, sensors, and alarms, around the complex,” according to the report. “The current, temporary security fence surrounds such a tremendous area that it requires significant personnel resources to monitor its entire length.”

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