The ramifications of the January 6 Capitol insurrection are still being felt among U.S. Capitol Police officers. So much so that “many” members of the agency want to retire or leave, according to the union that represents the officers.
“Many officers that are retirement eligible are seriously looking at turning in their retirement papers. Since January 6th, several Officers have retired as a result,” Gus Papathanasiou, chairman of the U.S. Capitol Police Labor Committee, said in a statement released on February 26. “Additionally, I cannot tell you the number of younger officers who have confided in me since the insurrection who are actively looking at other police agencies or even new careers.”
In his statement, Papathanasiou said that officers are being driven by two main factors: “a lack of trust in our leadership who clearly failed us on January 6th” and the fact that many other agencies “offer better working conditions and better retirement benefits” than the U.S. Capitol Police.
“If Congress wants to recruit and retain officers to meet the heightened security threat,” he added, “they are going to have address both the leadership and quality-of-life issues driving officers to leave this department.”
The agency has been widely criticized and under intense scrutiny for their handling of the January 6 breach, The Hill reports. Rioters pushed through barricades, bypassing officers in riot gear and other security measures, and eventually made their way into the Capitol building, forcing members of Congress and staffers to take shelter. It took hours for law enforcement to clear the building and establish a secure perimeter.
The rampage resulted in five deaths, including a Capitol Police officer. To date, more than 300 people have been charged in connection with the riot, the U.S. Justice Department reports.
According to ABC News, in the aftermath of the insurrection, U.S. Capitol Police Chief Steven Sund resigned, six U.S. Capitol Police officers have been suspended with pay and 29 others have been placed under investigation for their actions.
In his statement, Papathanasiou also said that the U.S. Capitol Police is woefully understaffed and, like many agencies across the nation, is struggling with recruitment and retention.
“The fact we were understaffed was no secret,” he said. “Recruiting, hiring, and training these additional officers is going to take years. As the [U.S. Capitol Police’s] mission has increased drastically over the last few years, our manpower hasn’t and we need more manpower, but my biggest concern right now is retaining the officers we already have. I have warned the [U.S. Capitol Police] leadership and Members of Congress that many the [U.S. Capitol Police] officers are on the fence about whether to stay with this department.”