NPI's Cascadia Advocate

Offering commentary and analysis from Washington, Oregon, and Idaho, The Cascadia Advocate is the Northwest Progressive Institute's unconventional perspective on world, national, and local politics.

Thursday, January 7th, 2021

Three out of four members of the Capitol Police Board are gone or on their way out

In the wake of yes­ter­day’s hor­rif­ic ter­ror­ist attack on the Unit­ed States Capi­tol, many peo­ple are call­ing for the Capi­tol Police them­selves to be inves­ti­gat­ed for fail­ing to pro­tect the insti­tu­tion that they are respon­si­ble for securing.

The agency, which has pri­ma­ry juris­dic­tion over the secu­ri­ty of the Capi­tol, is actu­al­ly under the con­trol of Con­gress, not the exec­u­tive branch, unlike the Fed­er­al Bureau of Inves­ti­ga­tion or the Nation­al Park Police, a fact which may sur­prise those not famil­iar with the orga­ni­za­tion of the fed­er­al gov­ern­ment. It has a large bud­get in the hun­dreds of mil­lions, and sev­er­al thou­sand officers.

Direct over­sight of the Capi­tol Police is del­e­gat­ed by Con­gress to four peo­ple:

  • the Sergeant at Arms of the U.S. House of Representatives
  • the Sergeant At Arms of the Unit­ed States Senate
  • the Archi­tect of the Capitol
  • … and the Chief of Police, who is an ex-offi­cio member

As of this evening, three of the four indi­vid­u­als on the Board have either resigned or are being forced out. Paul D. Irv­ing, the Sergeant at Arms of the House, has already ten­dered his res­ig­na­tion, accord­ing to Speak­er Nan­cy Pelosi, who announced it this morn­ing. Also resign­ing is Chief of Police Steven A. Sund, whose res­ig­na­tion was hand­ed in a short while ago after Pelosi demand­ed it.

Accord­ing to Pelosi, Chief Sund had not even both­ered to con­tact her or Sen­ate Major­i­ty Leader-des­ig­nate Chuck Schumer after the attack on the Capi­tol, which is sim­ply mind-bog­gling. “Mr. Sund, he hasn’t even called us since this hap­pened,” Pelosi told aston­ished reporters at a press conference.

With­in hours, Sund was out. (Sund did man­age to put togeth­er a press release.)

As for Michael C. Stenger, the Sergeant at Arms of the Sen­ate, he’s fin­ished too. He can either vol­un­tar­i­ly depart or be fired as soon as Democ­rats have a work­ing major­i­ty in the Sen­ate, which should hap­pen on the after­noon of Jan­u­ary 20th.

“If Sen­ate Sergeant Arms Stenger hasn’t vacat­ed the posi­tion by then, I will fire him as soon as Democ­rats have a major­i­ty in the Sen­ate,” Mr. Schumer said.

Irv­ing had been Sergeant at Arms of the U.S. House since Jan­u­ary 17th, 2012 (Repub­li­cans had the major­i­ty at that time and were respon­si­ble for his selec­tion.) “He is the thir­ty-sixth per­son to hold this post since the House of Rep­re­sen­ta­tives first met in New York City in 1789,” the Unit­ed States House web­site notes. “Pri­or to this, Mr. Irv­ing was an Assis­tant Direc­tor of the U.S. Secret Ser­vice from 2001 to 2008, serv­ing as a Spe­cial Agent with the Secret Ser­vice for twen­ty-five years.”

Stenger has been Sergeant at Arms of the U.S. Sen­ate since April 16th, 2018. He also has expe­ri­ence work­ing for the Unit­ed States Secret Service.

“Michael C. Stenger served as the Chief of Staff for the U.S. Sen­ate Sergeant at Arms from Jan­u­ary 2015,” the Unit­ed States Sen­ate web­site states. “Mr. Stenger began work­ing for the Sen­ate Sergeant at Arms in 2011, serv­ing as Assis­tant Sergeant at Arms for the Office of Pro­tec­tive Ser­vices and Con­ti­nu­ity until his appoint­ment as Deputy Sergeant at Arms in May 2014.”

Sund became the Chief of Police less than two years ago. His law enforce­ment career began in 1990 with the Met­ro­pol­i­tan Police Depart­ment. he earned his pro­mo­tion to sergeant in 1997, lieu­tenant in 1997, and cap­tain in 2006. He became Com­man­der of the Spe­cial Oper­a­tions Divi­sion in 2011.

“As Com­man­der, Chief Sund also served as a lead plan­ner for the 2009 and 2013 Pres­i­den­tial Inau­gu­ra­tions, and he had a sig­nif­i­cant plan­ning role in the major events des­ig­nat­ed as NSS­Es by the Depart­ment of Home­land Secu­ri­ty,” his offi­cial Unit­ed States Capi­tol Police biog­ra­phy says.

“He is a rec­og­nized expert in crit­i­cal inci­dent man­age­ment and  active shoot­er pre­pared­ness and response hav­ing han­dled dozens of crim­i­nal bar­ri­cade and hostage sit­u­a­tions. His expe­ri­ence involves being the on-scene inci­dent com­man­der dur­ing major inci­dents such as the 2009 shoot­ing at the Nation­al Holo­caust Muse­um, the 2012 shoot­ing at the Fam­i­ly Research Coun­cil, and the 2013 active shoot­er inci­dent at the Wash­ing­ton Navy Yard.”

The biog­ra­phy adds: “Chief Sund has received numer­ous awards for his event plan­ning, as well as his response to the Sep­tem­ber 11, 2001, ter­ror­ist attacks. Due to his knowl­edge and expe­ri­ence, he also has been an instruc­tor with the Unit­ed States Secret Ser­vice in the area of major events planning.”

It is inex­plic­a­ble and inde­fen­si­ble that some­one with Sund’s expe­ri­ence and sup­posed exper­tise in event plan­ning could have over­seen such an appalling response to yes­ter­day’s attack on the Capi­tol, and then failed to com­mu­ni­cate with con­gres­sion­al lead­ers after the fact. It’s tru­ly incomprehensible.

Don­ald Trump and his neo­fas­cist sup­port­ers open­ly sig­naled their inten­tions and announced what they were plan­ning, yet Capi­tol Police were unpre­pared.

The May­or of the Dis­trict of Colum­bia, Muriel Bows­er, went to great lengths to try to reduce the pos­si­bil­i­ty of a vio­lent clash in D.C. yes­ter­day between Trump’s trig­ger-hap­py back­ers and oppo­nents of the Trump regime by repeat­ed­ly warn­ing peo­ple to stay away. As a con­se­quence of her admin­is­tra­tion’s work, the D.C. Police were far more pre­pared for yes­ter­day’s events than the Capi­tol Police.

The Capi­tol Police were forced, in fact, to turn to the D.C. Police for help secur­ing the Capi­tol after it had been com­pro­mised by Trump’s ter­ror­ist mob.

Whether agency brass were will­ing­ly unpre­pared or sim­ply incom­pe­tent is being debat­ed in sev­er­al forums right now. Regard­less, they are cul­pa­ble.

There are not many police agen­cies that have the nar­row set of respon­si­bil­i­ties the USCP has. The Capi­tol Police exist to serve the Unit­ed States Con­gress and secure the Capi­tol. That’s their job. And while they were able to evac­u­ate mem­bers of Con­gress suc­cess­ful­ly once the Capi­tol had been stormed, it should nev­er have been nec­es­sary to evac­u­ate any­one in the first place.

The depar­tures of Sund, Irv­ing, and Stenger are a first step towards a safer Unit­ed States Capi­tol. But there is much more work to do. The entire agency needs to be placed under a micro­scope. Offi­cers who facil­i­tat­ed the ter­ror­ist mob’s behav­ior should be ter­mi­nat­ed and pros­e­cut­ed. Who­ev­er takes over as the new chief must clean house and ensure the com­mand staff and offi­cer corps does not include any­one with Trump, “booga­loo” or “QAnon” sympathies.

It is a good thing that Chuck Schumer will be pick­ing the new Sen­ate Sergeant at Arms and not Mitch McConnell. We look for­ward to the appoint­ment of bet­ter and more trust­wor­thy lead­ers to the Capi­tol Police Board.

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