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.
- 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.
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.
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.