A U.S. Capitol police officer shoots pepper spray at a radical pro-Trump rioter inside the U.S. Capitol building on January 6 during a joint session of Congress in Washington, D.C., to certify President Joe Biden's electoral victory. Photo by Kevin Dietsch/UPI | License Photo
Jan. 27 (UPI) -- The union representing U.S. Capitol Police officers condemned the force's leadership Wednesday for failing to properly relay the threat of the Jan. 6 riot at the Capitol to officers.
In a statement Wednesday, Capitol Police Labor Committee Chair Gus Papathanasiou responded to acting Capitol Police Chief Yogananda Pittman's testimony Tuesday that the department was aware that militia and White supremacist groups planned to target the Capitol, which he described as a "startling admission."
"The disclosure that the entire executive team knew what was coming but did not better prepare us for potential violence, including the possible use of firearms against us, is unconscionable," he said. "The fact that they did not relay this information to the officers on duty prior to the insurrection is inexcusable."
In her testimony before Congress, Pittman apologized for the security failure while acknowledging that Capitol Police leadership had compiled intelligence at least two days prior to the siege that groups planned to harm the Capitol.
"By Jan. 4, the department knew that the Jan. 6 event would not be like any of the previous protests held in 2020. We knew that militia groups and White supremacist organizations would be attending," she said. "We also knew that some of these participants were intending to bring firearms and other weapons to the event. We knew that there was a strong potential for violence and that Congress was the target."
Five people died during the insurrection, including Capitol Police officer Brian Sicknick. Howard Liebengood, who was at the Capitol on Jan. 6 and died by suicide days later.
Papathanasiou on Wednesday provided further details about officers who were injured in the riot.
"I have officers who were not issued helmets prior to the attack who have sustained brain injuries. One officer has two cracked ribs and two smashed spinal discs. One officer is going to lose his eye, and another was stabbed with a metal fence stake," he said.
Capitol Police Chief Steven Sund, Senate Sergeant-at-Arms Michael Stenger and House Sergeant-at-Arms Paul Irving all resigned following the rioting and Papathanasiou said high-ranking officials in the department are not fit to fill the role of chief.
"We have leaders in this department who have the support of the front-line officers," he said. "They can implement the changes we need to make, but those leaders are not at the chief or assistant chief level, nor possibly the deputy chief level.
"Our officers need leadership they can trust."
Supporters of President Donald Trump riot against the Electoral College vote count on January 6, 2021, in protest of Trump's loss to President-elect Joe Biden, prompting a lockdown of the Capitol Building. Photo by Leigh Vogel/UPI | License Photo