The head of the Capitol Police union pushed Congress on Sunday to bolster security after a second attack at the U.S. Capitol complex this year left another officer dead, warning of a possible thinning of the department’s ranks.
Gus Papathanasiou, chairman of the U.S. Capitol Police Labor Committee, said in a statement that the department is 233 officers below its authorized level of more than 2,000.
“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.”
Papathanasiou said the latest attack, on Friday, which killed Officer William Evans, has left his peers “reeling.” He said Evans was “well respected within the department and his loss will not be forgotten.”
“We have now lost two officers in the line of duty this year,” Papathanasiou said. “Another officer has taken his own life and we have 80 officers who were seriously injured in the insurrection. Some of those injured officers may never return to duty.”
Papathanasiou called on Congress to implement the recommendations presented last month as part of a task force looking into the Jan. 6 riot, which was led by retired Army Lt. Gen. Russel Honoré. But he said “our first priority has to be retaining our existing officers.”
The report recommends that Capitol Police fill all open positions and add nearly 800 more positions “to fill assessed capability gaps, which includes intelligence specialists, operational planners, supervisors, Civil Disturbance Unit (CDU) personnel and trainers, and dignitary protection agents, to name just a few.”
Noah Green, 25, of Indiana drove a car into a security barricade at the Capitol complex on Friday. He was shot after jumping out of the car with a knife and “lunging” at officers, Acting Capitol Police Chief Yogananda Pittman said. Green died at a hospital.
Evans was killed, and a second officer, Kenny Shaver, was injured. Shaver was released from a hospital Saturday.
Honoré said Sunday on ABC’s “This Week” that Congress must “move forward now” to pass supplemental funding for the force.
“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,” he said. “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.”
Also on “This Week,” Sen. Roy Blunt, R-Mo., said Congress must think “about how we’re gathering intelligence as it relates to the Capitol and what we’re doing to recruit and what we’re doing to train” when considering additional Capitol police funding.
“I think that’s maybe even more important than the size of the force,” he said, adding that the focus should be on “how we secure the Capitol but, at the same time, make it as secure as it needs to be but as free as we could possibly make it.” He said he supports removing permanent fencing around the complex.
“It’s an important element of who we are,” he said of the Capitol. “It’s an important symbol of who we are. And we need to keep that in mind with every decision we make.”