Capitol riots: Cops knew 'Congress itself is the target' but were told to avoid aggressive tactics, says report

The new report by the police agency's internal investigator Micahel A Bolton said the cops not only failed to take adequate measures despite the warnings of violence, they also used defective protective equipment


                            Capitol riots: Cops knew 'Congress itself is the target' but were told to avoid aggressive tactics, says report
US Capitol Police officers with some detained protesters at the Capitol Hill on January 6, 2021 (Getty Images)

The riots that the supporters of former president Donald Trump had carried out at Capitol Hill on January 6 left a profound impact on the country’s politics. The incident saw Trump getting banned from Twitter and impeached in the House and it was subsequently reported that active duty and veteran members of the armed forces also took part in that protest. The riots that earned the US even international condemnation have made the headlines again.

A report by The New York Times has now said the Capitol Police had advance warnings about the January 6 riots, including the potential for violence in which “Congress itself is the target”. But the officers were asked by their leaders not to use their most aggressive tactics to tackle the mob. A new report by the agency’s internal investigator, Michael A Bolton, has slammed the Capitol Police over its preparation and response to the riots that saw five people dead, including a police officer, while several were injured. "Heavier, less-lethal weapons were not used that day because of orders from leadership," Bolton wrote The attacks happened when the lawmakers were in the Congress which was in the middle of confirming Joe Biden’s victory in the 2020 presidential election. The 104-page report was reviewed by the NYT and was set to meet a Capitol Hill hearing on Thursday, April 14. 

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Police failed to take adequate preparations despite clear warnings

According to Bolton’s findings, the police agency failed to take adequate preparations despite clear warnings that Trump’s extremist supporters posed a threat. It was also said that the police officers used defective protective equipment during the serious combat while the leaders asked their Civil Disturbance Unit to not use its most powerful crowd-control tools, like stun grenades, to defeat the trouble-makers.

Pro-Trump supporters storm the U.S. Capitol following a rally with President Donald Trump on January 6, 2021, in Washington, DC. (Getty Images)

Three days before Trump’s supporters stormed the Capitol Hill, a Capitol Hill intelligence report warned of violence to be carried out by Trump’s supporters who were convinced that the 2020 presidential election was compromised and their leader was deliberately denied victory. “Some had even posted a map of the Capitol complex’s tunnel system on pro-Trump message boards,” the NYT report said. 

“Unlike previous postelection protests, the targets of the pro-Trump supporters are not necessarily the counterprotesters as they were previously, but rather Congress itself is the target on the 6th,” Bolton’s report cited the threat assessment as saying. 

“Stop the Steal’s propensity to attract white supremacists, militia members, and others who actively promote violence may lead to a significantly dangerous situation for law enforcement and the general public alike.”

On the eve of the violence that rocked the Capitol, the police agency noted down a plan for the protest that there were “no specific known threats related to the joint session of Congress.” The force had also determined that the chances of violence were “improbable”. 

Bolton said the intelligence breakdowns happened because of the agency's internal dysfunction and called for “guidance that clearly documents channels for efficiently and effectively disseminating intelligence information to all of its personnel”. The failure, along with other slips inside the Capitol Police, led to a dangerous situation on the fateful day, Bolton’s report said.

The police had come under criticism in the wake of the January 6 riots after officers were found taking selfies with rioters and even appearing to help them remove barricades and open doors to enter the premises.