With the U.S. Capitol in the background, U.S. Capitol Police officers salute as procession carries the remains of a U.S. Capitol Police officer who was killed after a man rammed a car into two officers at a barricade outside the Capitol in Washington, Friday, April 2, 2021. (AP Photo/Jose Luis Magana)

With the U.S. Capitol in the background, U.S. Capitol Police officers salute as procession carries the remains of a U.S. Capitol Police officer who was killed after a man rammed a car into two officers at a barricade outside the Capitol in Washington, Friday, April 2, 2021. (AP Photo/Jose Luis Magana)

Latest attack pushes U.S. Capitol Police further toward crisis

Hundreds of officers are considering retirement or finding jobs elsewhere

One officer was killed and another injured when a driver slammed into a barricade Friday afternoon. The attack comes after officers were overrun and injured when a violent mob of Trump supporters overran the Capitol on Jan. 6, breaking through insufficient barriers and pushing their way to within steps of lawmakers. One officer died and another killed himself.

Scores of officers are considering early retirement, top leaders have resigned and those in office face increasing criticism. Security concerns over the events of the past four months may alter not only how the department operates, but whether the historically public grounds can remain open.

The head of the Capitol Police union said officers are “reeling” following the death on Friday of Officer Billy Evans, who was on the force for 18 years. He was struck at a Capitol entrance by a man who, according to investigators, suffered from delusions and suicidal thoughts.

Evans’ death comes after Officer Brian Sicknick, who was among hundreds of officers trying to fight off rioters without the necessary equipment or planning, died after the Jan. 6 riot. Officer Howard Liebengood died by suicide shortly afterward.

Hundreds of officers are considering retirement or finding jobs elsewhere, union chairman Gus Papathanasiou said in a statement. “They continue to work even as we rapidly approach a crisis in morale and force numbers,” he said, noting that officers are dealing with “massive amounts of forced overtime.”

Dozens of officers were injured on Jan. 6 and others have been held out of work during an internal investigation into the department’s response, including the officer who shot a 35-year-old woman as she and others were massing at a barricaded doorway. That’s further depleted a force that has more than 200 vacant positions, roughly 10% of its authorized force level.

In the months since the insurrection, many officers have routinely worked 12-hour days or longer to protect the building during Biden’s Jan. 20 inauguration and impeachment proceedings against Trump.

“This rips the scab off and continues to provide a level of uncertainty and worry about the workplace and what’s happening there,” said Rep. Tim Ryan, an Ohio Democrat who chairs a subcommittee overseeing Capitol Police funding. “And I think this is very personal for so many of us who have come to really love and respect the Capitol Police even more than we already had, because of what they did on Jan. 6, and then immediately turning it around to make sure that the inauguration was safe.”

Acting Chief Yogananda Pittman received a vote of no confidence from the union in February, reflecting widespread distrust among the rank and file. Pittman was assistant chief in charge of intelligence during the riot and has admitted she did not see an FBI assessment the day before warning of “war” at the Capitol.

Steven Sund, who resigned in January as the agency’s chief amid scrutiny over whether the police force was adequately prepared for the riot, told The Associated Press that officers he had spoken to were “on edge.”

The grief and crises that have engulfed the Capitol Police are also part of broader social forces that have tested the country, Sund said.

“There’s the impact of the pandemic on the American psyche,” Sund said. “There’s a lot of stuff in social media and a lot of action in reference to the actions of law enforcement. Law enforcement have been attacked in cities around the country. So there’s just a lot of things gearing up that make 2020, 2021 a little unique.”

The Capitol Police are not a typical law enforcement agency. The roughly 2,000 officers are responsible solely for protecting Congress — its members, visitors and facilities, an area of about 16 acres.

The department dates back to the early 1800s, after President John Quincy Adams asked that a police force be established to help protect the building following incidents there. Now they have an operating budget of $460 million.

The driver in Friday’s incident, 25-year-old Noah Green, was shot by officers shortly after emerging from the vehicle wielding a knife, authorities said. Green died later at a hospital. There is no known connection between the insurrection and Green, who described himself in online posts as being under government thought control and being watched.

New concrete barriers are in place around the checkpoint where Evans and a colleague were standing guard north of the Capitol. But the attack underscores that the Capitol will always be a target, said retired Lt. Gen. Russel Honoré, who chaired a task force that made several security recommendations following the insurrection.

“It is the most important building in America, because it’s the seat of our democracy,” Honoré told ABC’s “This Week” on Sunday. “If that building and the people in it don’t function, we no longer have democracy. And whatever price we have to pay to protect it, we need to do it.”

READ MORE: Suspect in fatal Capitol attack suffered delusions, says U.S. official

The task force called for a renewed push to fill the 233 open positions on the force and for Congress to fund 350 new jobs and new fencing systems and other infrastructure. The task force also wants Congress to give the Capitol Police chief new authority to seek National Guard support in a crisis. Sund has alleged that leaders on the three-member Capitol Police Board delayed his calls for Guard help on Jan. 6, which former members of the board have denied.

Papathanasiou, the union chairman, said he supported Honoré’s recommendations and had met with him and his team Thursday, the day before Evans’ death.

“As I explained to him, these improvements are critical, but our first priority has to be retaining our existing officers,” Papathanasiou said. “There are immediate steps Congress can take to address this.”

Rep. Jennifer Wexton, a Virginia Democrat, has been in touch with Liebengood’s family since his death. She called for a program to encourage “peer-to-peer” discussions between officers about the trauma they had incurred separate from mental health professionals called in to meet with officers.

“I just want to make sure we’re taking care of the Capitol Police officers, because that’s the one constant in all of this,” she said. “Whatever we do, the first order of business is not some physical structure, it’s making sure we’re taking care of the officers.”

___

Merchant reported from Houston. Associated Press writers Michael Balsamo, Colleen Long and Lisa Mascaro contributed to this report.

Nomaan Merchant, Eric Tucker, And Mary Clare Jalonick, The Associated Press


Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Want to support local journalism during the pandemic? Make a donation here.

USA

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

File photo
A man walks into a Cargill meat processing factory. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Graham Hughes
Alberta meat plant, site of COVID-19 outbreak last year, to get vaccination clinics

Nearly half of the 2,200 workers at the Cargill facility contracted the novel coronavirus and two employees died last April

Grand Chief Wilton Littlechild, left, Grand Chief Arthur Noskey, centre and Chief Aaron Young during a meeting with First Nations Chiefs and Grand Chiefs in Edmonton. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jason Franson
Alberta must retract Forest Act before it becomes law: Treaty 8 grand chief

‘We are asking (the government) to pull this back and consult with us,’ says Arthur Noskey of Treaty 8 First Nations

Alberta’s largest school board says it will not use the United Conservative government’s draft elementary school curriculum pilot this fall. (Ben Hohenstatt/Juneau Empire)
Calgary school board says no to United Conservative draft school curriculum

Other school boards including Edmonton Public, Edmonton Catholic, Elk Island Public, Wild Rose, Medicine Hat Public, Medicine Hat Catholic and Lethbridge Public have also rejected it

Alberta reported its highest number of daily COVID-19 cases since December 16 on Friday. (NIAID-RML via AP)
Alberta reports 1,521 additional COVID-19 cases, 674 new variant cases

Daily case total the highest since mid-December

A cross made out of hockey sticks at a makeshift memorial is silhouetted against the setting sun at the intersection of a fatal bus crash near Tisdale, Sask., on Monday, April, 9, 2018. A virtual tribute is planned to mark the third anniversary of the Humboldt Broncos bus crash. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
VIDEO: Humboldt Broncos team to be honoured on third anniversary of fatal bus crash

16 people died and 13 were injured when a semi-trailer ran a stop sign into the path of the hockey team’s bus

Chief Public Health Officer Theresa Tam speaks during a technical briefing on the COVID pandemic in Canada, Friday, January 15, 2021 in Ottawa. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld
Canada’s ICUs see near-record of COVID-19 patients last week as variant cases double

Last week, Canadian hospitals treated an average of 2,500 patients with COVID-19, daily, up 7% from the previous week

Vancouver’s park board general manager issued a new order Friday restricting tents and other temporary structures from being set up in Strathcona Park after April 30, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
Vancouver park board issues order to restrict tents in Strathcona Park

The order issued Friday restricted tents and other temporary structures from being set up after April 30

Stettler’s own Renegade Station is kicking off the spring season with a brand new single - to be released April 9th. (Photo submitted)
A brand new single is on the way from Stettler-based band Renegade Station

Free Free Free hits all streaming platforms on April 9th

Foreign Affairs Minister Marc Garneau waits for a virtual meeting to begin with US Secretary of State Antony Blinken in Ottawa, Friday February 26, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld
Ottawa mulls exempting more workers from Canada-U.S. border shutdown: Garneau

Canada-U.S. border has been closed to people travelling for vacations and other non-essential visits since March 2020

A worker smooths concrete at a construction site in Toronto on January 16, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Cole Burston
Economy adds 303,000 jobs in March, unemployment rate falls: Statistics Canada

Figure released this morning outpaced the 259,000 gain seen in February

FILE - This file photo dated July 10, 1947 shows the official photograph of Britain’s Princess Elizabeth and her fiance, Lieut. Philip Mountbatten in London. Buckingham Palace says Prince Philip, husband of Queen Elizabeth II, has died aged 99. (AP Photo/File)
Prince Philip, husband of Queen Elizabeth II, dies at 99

Philip spent a month in hospital earlier this year before being released on March 16

Campbell River city council will continue its 2020 policy of waiving late fees and NSFs. (Mirror File photo)
53% of Canadians teetering the brink of insolvency: survey

A majority of Canadians admit they’re just $200 away from not being able to pay their monthly bills

Alberta Premier Jason Kenney listens as the 2021 budget is delivered in Edmonton Alta, on Thursday, Feb. 25, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jason Franson
Kenney faces criticism from doctors, his own caucus, over new COVID-19 health rules

Alberta now has more than 10,000 active cases, about 43 per cent are variants

Most Read