The U.S. Capitol Police face increasing scrutiny as to whether its officers played a role in allowing a violent mob to storm the Capitol building and threaten the safety of lawmakers.
According to two people informed on the matter.
In addition to engaging all its staff in the project, the Inspector General’s office will invite independent experts to assist in the investigation.
It comes amid increasing demands from lawmakers as to how the pro-Trump crowd, which included people carrying guns, was able to enter the building so easily and halt the certification of the US presidential election result by Congress.
Several lawmakers have described fleeing for their lives and being forced into hiding in safe places as law enforcement failed to hold back the crowds. Others described how they or their colleagues were subjected to violent threats when voting to certify election results or impeach Donald Trump.
Sen. Chris Murphy, the top Democrat on the Senate committee overseeing policing, said it was “absolutely critical” for lawmakers to understand how the breach happened, adding that he was pleased to hear that the inspector general would launch a full investigation.
On Wednesday evening, Tim Ryan – the Democratic congressman who chairs the House of Representatives committee that oversees the Capitol Police’s $ 516 million annual budget – told reporters lawmakers were “having a very hard time getting information from the Capitol Police surveillance ”.
“It’s a black box out there,” Mr Ryan said, adding, “They have to do a better job.”
number of Capitol police officers suspended so far
Mr Ryan said that in hundreds of conversations with “base members” of the force, it emerged that there was a lack of communication from command centers, resulting in “a ton of confusion and a lack of direction ”.
Capitol Police officers were also accused of aiding the rioters. Two Virginia police officers who were arrested and charged with illegally entering the Capitol building told a local newspaper, the Richmond Times-Dispatch, that they had been allowed to enter the building and shown by the Capitol Police officers.
Thomas Robertson, an off-duty officer with the Rocky Mount Police Department in Virginia, told the local newspaper that he and his colleague Jacob Fracker had not broken any laws.
“We were escorted by the Capitol Police, who showed us around and said, ‘As long as you stay here you are fine,” “Mr Robertson said, adding that both men had remained in areas curly. He claimed officers distributed bottled water to people as soon as they entered.
However, prosecutors have alleged in court documents that in now-deleted social media posts, Mr Robertson claimed he had “attacked the government” and “took the damn Capitol.”
Images of Capitol Police officers appearing to open the doors to allow rioters to walk to the Capitol grounds and pose for selfies with members of the crowd while wearing Trump-themed MAGA hats, have caused outrage on social networks.
But other members of the force have received praise for risking their safety to distract crowds from the crowded Senate Chamber. A bipartisan group of lawmakers seek to honor one of the officers, Eugene Goodman, for his “bravery and quick thinking” during the attack.
Capitol Police Chief Steven Sund submitted his resignation as a result of the attack. A Capitol Police officer died of injuries sustained during the melee.
Two Capitol Hill police officers have so far been suspended from duty. Mr Ryan said he was told about 20 more were being investigated by the Police Bureau for staff and management.
Mistrust inside the Capitol has also spread among lawmakers, with some suggesting that colleagues aided the rioters by giving them tours in the preceding days.
Speaking during the impeachment proceedings against Mr. Trump, Jerry Nadler, Democratic chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, said “accomplices of rioters in this House would be held responsible.”