U.S. Capitol Police to open California office following Jan. 6 attack

A U.S. Capitol Police officer stands at the door of the Capitol Rotunda.
(Salwan Georges / Washington Post )
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The U.S. Capitol Police on Tuesday announced that the agency was opening regional field offices in California and Florida to investigate threats to members of Congress in the wake of the Jan. 6 attack on the Capitol.

Threats against members of Congress have increased in recent years. As of Tuesday, total threats so far in 2021 were double what they were at this point a year ago, according to Capitol Police.

Home to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-San Francisco), House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Bakersfield) and other prominent members of Congress, California gives the law enforcement agency a Western base to investigate claims of threats made against members. The state is also home to the nation’s largest congressional delegation.

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Yogananda Pittman, the department’s acting chief, told lawmakers in March that the vast majority of the increased threats were from people who didn’t live near Washington..

The field offices will be in the Tampa and San Francisco areas, according to Capitol Police.

“At this time, Florida and California are where the majority of our potential threats are,” a department spokesperson said in a statement. “The field offices will be the first for the Department. A regional approach to investigating and prosecuting threats against Members is important, so we will be working closely with the U.S. Attorney’s Offices in those locations.”

The new field offices are among the changes made since the attack six months ago in which Capitol Police were quickly overwhelmed by thousands of pro-Trump supporters, hundreds of whom were able to break into the Capitol building, forcing members to temporarily halt certification of the 2020 election results and flee for safety. Capitol Police leaders told congressional committees investigating the incident that they had no information that the crowd would become violent.

Five people died in the melee or the days after. Two officers died by suicide, and more than 140 were injured — some permanently. More than 500 people have been charged for participating in the attack.

Other changes, spurred in part by congressional investigations and reports by the department’s internal watchdog, include increased training for officers alongside the National Guard, improved intelligence-gathering efforts and protocols for reporting sensitive information, and new equipment and technology for officers.

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The police agency rarely provides information to the public on how it operates, citing security concerns and member safety. For example, unlike other government agencies, the internal watchdog’s reports are not publicly available.

A spokesperson did not answer questions Tuesday about how many staff would be hired or what the cost to taxpayers would be.

The spokesperson said other regional offices were expected.

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Very few members of Congress are accompanied by security outside of the Capitol building, and it is unclear if the new offices will primarily investigate threats against members or also will help when security is needed in the state. The Capitol Police have jurisdiction to investigate all threats made against a member of Congress.

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