The Capitol Police Union’s head pushed Congress on Sunday to ramp up security after a second attack at the complex this year left another officer dead and also warned of a possible thinning of the department’s ranks.
Gus Papathanasiou, chairman of the U.S. Capitol Police Labor Committee, noted in a statement that the department is currently 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, left has left his peers “reeling.” He noted Evans was “well respected within the department and his loss will not be forgotten.”
Officer Brian Sicknick died from injuries suffered during the Jan. 6 riot. Another Capitol Police officer died by suicide weeks later.
“We have now lost two officers in the line of duty this year,” he 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.”
The chairman called on Congress to implement the recommendations presented last month as part of a task force looking into the Jan. 6 riot, which left five people dead including a which was led by retired Lt. Gen. Russel Honoré. But he said “our first priority has to be retaining our existing officers.”
That report recommends Capitol Police fill all open positions and adds another nearly 800 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.”
On Friday, 25-year-old Noah Green of Indiana drove a car into a security barricade at the Capitol complex. He was shot after jumping out of the car with a knife and “lunging” at officers, as Acting Capitol Police Chief Yogananda Pittman said. Green later died at an area hospital.
Evans was killed in the attack while a second officer, Kenny Shaver, was injured. Shaver was released from a hospital on Saturday.
Speaking with ABC’s “This Week” on Sunday, Honoré said Congress needs to “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,” adding that the focus should be “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,” noting he is in favor of 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.”
Alex Moe contributed.