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Capitol officer says he ‘would not be surprised’ if department gets sued ‘for their lack of action’ after January 6 attack

Capitol Police are seen before a military honor guard carries the casket of Bob Dole after lying in state at the Capitol on December 10, 2021.

Pool/Getty Images

  • Capitol police officers told the New York Times that they’ve felt unsupported following January 6.
  • “I would not be surprised if down the road the department gets sued… for their lack of action,” an officer said.
  • Officers have deal with physical pain, emotional trauma, and even suicide attempts since the attack.

Capitol police officers have endured severe challenges since the January 6 attack on the Capitol, and many have grown disillusioned with the force’s leadership both before and after the events of that day.

According to a New York Times report based on interviews with officers and their families, many officers that haven’t outright left the force are now saddled with psychological disorders, neurological impairment, orthopedic injuries, post-traumatic stress disorder, and heightened anxiety.

In the days after the attack, officers said they frequently overheard the sound of weeping coming from bathrooms, and that many officers’ eyes appeared “vacant.”

One officer said that after a police captain told officers that “no one needed a pat on the back” the day after the riots, it confirmed to him that the leadership would “handle the aftermath of the 6th as badly as they handled the run-up to it” and that he didn’t sign up to “serve a force so incompetent that it ignored all obvious signs of trouble ahead.”

Compounding the problem was the fact that many considered the job “stable and cushy,” with federal benefits and nearly six-figure pay. Only around 15% of the force are military veterans, and many officers had never made an arrest or engaged in hand-to-hand combat. Some, according to an officer named Devan Gowdy, would even sleep on the job.

In the wake of the attack, officers were pushed into serving frequent overtime shifts, and mental health resources were so insufficient than one now-retired sergeant summoned his hometown pastor to the Capitol to offer immediate counseling.

Officers also said they only received one or two days off per month, while those who served on January 6 also received 2 eight-hours shifts of administration leave. But many felt they couldn’t actually take that leave, given the existing strain on the force.

“I would not be surprised if down the road the department gets sued — big time — for their lack of action after Jan. 6,” one officer told the New York Times, referring to the mental-health effects of such long hours after the attack.

Another point of contention was the force’s failure to adequately prepare for that day.

“I’m not going to say that she laughed, but…” said a senior officer who’d raised the issue of security with her captain on January 5, according to 4 officers. The senior officer told the Times through a police spokesman that she did not recall using that language. The police agency also failed to distribute intelligence warnings about the attack down to rank-and-file officers.

“Officers are still in disbelief that Assistant Chief Pittman is still in her role, where she failed miserably on January 6,” said Gus Papathanasiou, head of the Capitol Police union, referring to former acting chief Yogananda Pittman. “I’ve heard from officers and supervisors who’ve retired; they didn’t want to work under her.”

Tim Barber, a Capitol Police spokesman, told the New York Times in a statement that “Chief Manger has expressed confidence in the department’s leadership team that remained” after the high-level departures in the wake of January 6.

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