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Capitol Police union condemns police leadership over U.S. Capitol breach

"The officers are angry, and I don’t blame them. The entire executive team failed us, and they must be held accountable. Their inaction cost lives," Union Chairman Gus Papathanasiou said in a statement.

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U.S. Capitol in 2013
U.S. Capitol in 2013
(Mark Wilson/Getty Images)
Updated: January 27, 2021 - 7:21pm

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The United States Capitol Police Labor Committee issued a statement on Wednesday decrying police leaders after Acting Chief Yogananda Pittman indicated in a statement Tuesday that the police department was aware of a significant possibility of violence against Congress before the breach of the U.S. Capitol building earlier this month.

"By January 4th, the Department knew that the January 6th event would not be like any of the previous protests held in 2020," Pittman wrote in a prepared statement to Congress. "We knew that militia groups and white supremacists organizations would be attending. 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."

Union Chairman Gus Papathanasiou said that the episode represented a failure by leadership and that people should be held accountable.

"Acting Chief Pittman cites radio communications as a problem during the riots, but the real communications breakdown was the silence from our leadership, before the insurrection and while it was underway. They failed to share key intelligence with officers in advance, they failed to prepare adequately, they failed to equip our officers with a plan and on that very day, they failed to lead. This was not a ‘whole Department’ failure, but a leadership failure,” Papathanasiou said, according to the union's press release. "The officers are angry, and I don’t blame them. The entire executive team failed us, and they must be held accountable. Their inaction cost lives."

Police Chief Steven Sund resigned following the breach earlier this month. Prior to becoming the acting chief, Pittman had been serving as an assistant chief. House sergeant-at-arms Paul D. Irving and Senate sergeant-at-arms Michael C. Stenger also resigned since the incident occurred.

"The disclosure that the entire executive team (former Chief Sund, now Acting Chief Pittman, and Assistant Chief Thomas) knew what was coming but did not better prepare us for potential violence, including the possible use of firearms against us, is unconscionable," Chairman Papathanasiou said in the press release.

Officer Brian Sicknick passed away after sustaining injury during the Jan. 6 episode. 

"Another officer has tragically taken his own life," the union chair noted. "Between USCP and our colleagues at the Metropolitan Police Department, we have almost 140 officers injured. 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."

Two officers have committed suicide since the Capitol breach. Acting Chief of the Metropolitan Police Department Robert Contee revealed on Wednesday that officer Jeffrey Smith had taken his own life following the Jan. 6 incident.

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