Report Finds Capitol Police Ordered Not to Use Crowd Disbursement Weapons During Riot

Members of the U.S. Capitol Police were ordered not to use weapons intended to disperse rioters during the January 6 riot, according to an internal report released in March by Inspector General Michael Bolton that was obtained by the Associated Press.

The report said that although these orders came from "leadership," the weapons were considered "less lethal because they could have aided the Capitol Police to push back advancing rioters and were not meant to kill.

"The United States Capitol Police welcomes the USCP Office of Inspector General's (OIG) review and its recommendations," a Capitol Police press release said on Wednesday. "The Department understands and supports the evaluation of the events of January 6 and implementing changes to improve its operational readiness and the physical security infrastructure of the Capitol Complex."

In March, House Administration Committee Chairwoman Zoe Lofgren, who was briefed on the report and another internal document, said it contained "detailed and disturbing findings and important recommendations," according to the AP.

The report in its entirety detailed the widespread security and intelligence failures that left the Capitol Police's Civil Disturbance Unit, a unit whose purpose is to respond to and protect Congress from situations of civil unrest, wholly unprepared for the approximately 800 pro–Donald Trump rioters.

Bolton's findings also revealed that additional weapons that could have been used to disperse the crowd were not prepared ahead of time.

"In the immediate aftermath of January 6, the Department took significant steps to address concerns identified in the OIG's most recent report," the Capitol Police press release said. "For example, the Department has created a streamlined, comprehensive intelligence sharing process so that the information the Department receives from its intelligence partners is presented to its workforce in a consistent and coherent manner. The Department has made and continues to make substantial procedural and technological changes to the way it disseminates intelligence to all sworn personnel."

This report will be the subject of a congressional hearing Thursday on Capitol Hill, according to The New York Times.

"Before January 6, the Department was working diligently to replace aging equipment, though these efforts were stymied by manufacturing and shipping constraints of the COVID-19 pandemic. Though the Department has made progress in certain areas, it acknowledges much additional work needs to be done," the press release emphasized.

It concluded by acknowledging that January 6 demonstrated the need for major changes in the way the police force has operated.

Capitol Hill Riot
Donald Trump supporters clash with police and security forces as people try to storm the U.S. Capitol on January 6. Brent Stirton/Getty Images

For more reporting from the Associated Press, see below.

The report describes a multitude of missteps that left the force unprepared for the January 6 insurrection—riot shields that shattered upon impact, expired weapons that couldn't be used, inadequate training and an intelligence division that had few set standards.

In an extensive and detailed timeline of that day, the report describes conversations between officials as they disagreed on whether National Guard forces were necessary to back up the understaffed Capitol Police force. It quotes an Army official as telling then-Capitol Police Chief Steven Sund that "we don't like the optics of the National Guard standing in a line at the Capitol" after the insurrectionists had already broken in.

Bolton found that the department's deficiencies were—and remain—widespread. Equipment was old and stored badly, leaders had failed to act on previous recommendations to improve intelligence, and there was a broad lack of current policies or procedures for the Civil Disturbance Unit. That was exactly what happened on January 6 as Trump's supporters sought to overturn the election in his favor as Congress counted the Electoral College votes.

The report comes as the Capitol Police force has plunging morale and has edged closer to crisis as many officers have been working extra shifts and forced overtime to protect the Capitol after the insurrection. Acting Chief Yogananda Pittman received a vote of no confidence from the union in February, reflecting widespread distrust among the rank and file.

The entire force is also grieving the deaths of two of their own—Officer Brian Sicknick, who collapsed and died after engaging with protesters on January 6, and Officer William "Billy" Evans, who was killed April 2 when he was hit by a car that rammed into a barricade outside the Senate. Evans laid in honor in the Capitol Rotunda on Tuesday.

The Capitol Police have so far refused to publicly release the report—marked throughout as "law enforcement sensitive"—despite congressional pressure to do so. Bolton was expected to testify before the House Administration Committee on Thursday.

The report focuses heavily on failure of equipment and training January 6 as Capitol Police were quickly overwhelmed by Trump supporters who pushed past them, beat them and broke windows and doors to get into the building. It also looks at missed intelligence as the insurrectionists planned the attack openly online, and as various agencies sent warnings that were disseminated incorrectly.

Bolton found that in many cases department equipment had expired but was not replaced and some of it was more than 20 years old. Some weapons that could have fired tear gas were so old that officers didn't feel comfortable using them. Those who were ordered to get backup supplies to the officers on the front lines could not make it through the aggressive crowd.

In terms of the Civil Disturbance Unit, the report said there was a total lack of policy and procedure, and many officers didn't want to be a part of it. There were not enough guidelines for when to activate the unit, how to issue gear, what tactics to use or laying out the command structure. Some of the policies hadn't been updated in more than a decade and there was no firm roster of who was even in the division. The unit was at a "decreased level of readiness and preparedness" because there were no standards for equipment, the report said.

Bolton also laid out many of the missed intelligence signals—including a report prepared by the Department of Homeland Security in December that forwarded messages posted on forums supportive of Trump that appeared to be planning for January 6. One part of that document included a map of Capitol tunnels that someone had posted. "Take note," the message said.

The report looks at a missed memo from the FBI in which online activists predicted a "war" on January 6—Sund told Senate investigators last month he never saw it. Bolton also details the force's own internal reports, which he said were inconsistent. One Capitol Police report predicted that the protesters could become violent, but Sund testified before the Senate in February that internal assessments had said violence was "improbable."

On intelligence, Bolton said, there was a lack of adequate training and guidance for dissemination within the department. There were no policies or procedures for open source data gathering—such as gathering information from the online Trump forums—and analysts "may not be aware of the proper methods of conducting open source intelligence work."

A timeline attached to the report gives a more detailed look at Capitol Police movements, commands and conversations as the day unfolded and they scrambled to move staff and equipment to multiple fronts where people were breaking in.

The timeline sheds new light on conversations in which Sund begged for National Guard support. Sund and others, including the head of the D.C. National Guard, have testified that Pentagon officials were concerned about the optics of sending help.

The document gives the clearest proof of that concern yet, quoting Army Staff Secretary Walter Piatt telling Sund and others on a call that "we don't like the optics" of the National Guard at the Capitol and he would recommend not sending them. That was at 2:26 p.m., as rioters had already broken through windows and as Sund desperately asked for the help.

The Pentagon eventually approved the Guard's presence, and Guard members arrived after 5 p.m. While they were waiting, Sund also had a teleconference with Vice President Mike Pence, the timeline shows. Pence was in a secure location in the Capitol because he had overseen the counting of the votes, and some of the rioters were calling for his hanging because he had indicated he would not try to overturn President Joe Biden's election win.

The AP reported Saturday that Pence also had a conversation that day with acting Defense Secretary Christopher Miller in which he directed that he "Clear the Capitol."