The U.S. Capitol Police are struggling with morale and a sheer lack of numbers following another attack at the Capitol that left an officer dead and another injured.
Officer Billy Evans, an 18-year veteran, was killed after a disturbed driver crashed into him at a barricade outside the Capitol.
This attack, in addition to the Capitol riots earlier in the year that left several dead and scores injured, has left morale in the department at a low point, and many officers are looking for jobs in other departments, according to Capitol Police union chairman Gus Papathanasiou.
“We are struggling to meet existing mission requirements even with the officers working massive amounts of forced overtime,” he said. “In the next 3–5 years, we have another 500 officers who will be eligible to retire. Many of these officers could put in their retirement papers tomorrow. I’ve had many younger officers confide in me that they’re actively looking at other agencies and departments right now.”
The AP also noted that the weakened department is still struggling with dozens of injured officers from the Capitol riots who remain out of work, in addition to officers temporarily on leave due to internal investigations of their conduct during the riot. Factor in retirement-eligible officers and low morale, and the situation looks bleak.
Papathanasiou said in a statement that the department is currently 233 officers below its authorized level of more than 2,000, a number that was found to already be on the low-end in a recent report commissioned by House Speaker Nancy Pelosi.
The report found that the Capitol Police were not adequately prepared to respond to threats due to “capacity shortfalls” and other inadequacies.
According to the report obtained by NBC News, it stated: “The USCP were understaffed, insufficiently equipped and inadequately trained to secure the Capitol and members when violently attacked by a large mob…” and concluded, “The USCP is not postured to track, assess, plan against or respond to this plethora of threats due to significant capacity shortfalls, inadequate training, immature processes and an operating culture that is not intelligence-driven.”
It recommends that the department fill all open positions and add 800 more.
Papathanasiou said that the priority now is to retain all existing officers.
“As I explained to him, these improvements are critical, but our first priority has to be retaining our existing officers,” Papathanasiou said. “There are immediate steps Congress can take to address this.”
Retired Army Lieutenant General Russel Honoré, who led a task force that gave recommendations to Congress following the Capitol attacks, including increasing funding for the department to hire more officers, said of the report, “We gave them the plan. We worked hard to give it to them. Now they’ve got to work to make that plan come through, and that’s called a supplemental because the police in the Capitol deserve this. Our nation deserves it. And those families who have lost loved ones deserve it. And we need to up our game in support of the Capitol Police.”