U.S. Capitol Police chief testifies that his force faces staffing shortfall amid increasing threats
Nearly a year to the day after the deadly Jan. 6 insurrection, the U.S. Capitol Police force is struggling to recruit and retain officers even as threats to lawmakers are on the rise, the department’s new chief testified before Congress on Wednesday.
Chief J. Thomas Manger, who was tapped in July to lead the force, told the Senate Rules Committee that his department is understaffed by 440 officers and the shortfall is hampering the department’s ability to protect the Capitol complex.
That shortage comes as threats against lawmakers have skyrocketed — from 902 in 2016 to 9,600 last year, officials say.
“The biggest challenge I think we have is keeping up with the number of threats,” Manger testified, noting the department has doubled the number of officers assigned to investigate such threats. “If they continue to go up the way they have, clearly we’re going to need additional officers to assign to this responsibility.”
Manger said he hoped to hire 280 officers annually over the next few years to address the staffing shortage. Manger also said the department was looking to temporarily plug the gap with contractors at posts where armed officers are not needed, a disclosure that has met resistance from the union representing Manger’s officers.
Gus Papathanasiou, chair of the U.S. Capitol Police union, had previously in a statement called this plan “a recipe for disaster,” saying the department needed more sworn officers, not temporary contractors.
“The last thing we need are private security contractors who are not trained to our standards,” Papathanasiou said.
Despite the staffing shortage, Manger testified, his force has significantly improved security at the Capitol since a mob supporting then-President Trump stormed the building on Jan. 6, broke through police lines, battled officers, forced the evacuation of lawmakers and delayed the certification of Joe Biden’s electoral victory as president.
More than 100 police officers were injured, and authorities say the melee contributed to the deaths of five people, including Capitol Police Officer Brian Sicknick. Capitol Police officials consider his death to have come in the line of duty, though a medical examiner ruled he died of natural causes.
Of the 103 recommendations issued by Michael A. Bolton, inspector general for Capitol Police, the department has implemented or addressed more than 90, Manger testified.
The siege “exposed critical deficiencies with operational planning, intelligence, staffing and equipment,” Manger testified. “I recognize those issues have to be addressed, and that is what we are doing.”
Manger said it was key for lawmakers to increase the department’s upcoming budget so that it could hire more officers, improve their training and be better able to analyze threats.
Manger said the department plans to hire a new deputy chief to lead intelligence.
Capitol Police Chief J. Thomas Manger said installations for window upgrades will begin in the spring.
The chief and his department received bipartisan praise from lawmakers who thanked officers for protecting them during the siege.
“These officers were the true heroes of Jan. 6. They defended the Capitol, and everyone who works here, bravely and without hesitation,” allowing senators to “finish our work,” said Sen. Roy Blunt (R-Mo.).
“We were able to show the world that when our system is tested, it will prevail,” Blunt added.
Democrats also complimented Capitol police for protecting lawmakers during the assault while seeking to highlight Trump’s alleged role in inciting the insurrection.
“I never thought I’d see a day like that: a violent mob driven by the rhetoric and the lies of a disgraceful former president of the United States,” said Sen. Patrick J. Leahy of Vermont, who last year announced his retirement after nearly five decades in Congress.
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