U.S. House of Representatives Sergeant at Arms William J. Walker and U.S. Capitol Chief of Police Thomas Manger speak to reporters July 26, 2021, after a meeting with the members of the House select committee on the Jan. 6, 2021, attack in Washington, D.C.

U.S. House of Representatives Sergeant at Arms William J. Walker and U.S. Capitol Chief of Police Thomas Manger speak to reporters July 26, 2021, after a meeting with the members of the House select committee on the Jan. 6, 2021, attack in Washington, D.C. (Jabin Botsford/The Washington Post)

WASHINGTON — In the aftermath of the Jan. 6 riot, the U.S. Capitol Police force saw its workforce decline and its morale plummet, but its workload continued to soar. While the force maintained its protective and patrol duties, the number of threats aimed at members of Congress or the Capitol itself rose again in 2021 to roughly 9,600, Chief Thomas Manger said. The trajectory began with less than 4,000 threats in 2017 and increased to more than 8,600 threats in 2020.

“The threats against Congress have grown exponentially over the last five years,” Manger said in an interview before his testimony on Capitol Hill this week before the Senate Rules and Administration Committee. “And the workload, assigning somebody to look into all these cases is important.”

As he spoke, Manger said, a threat on Twitter directed toward a senator came in, reading, “idk I will kill @Sen.” He did not reveal the name.

“Out of 18,000 police departments, the U.S. Capitol Police is unique,” said Manger, who took over in July after retiring as Montgomery County, Md., police chief. “Nobody does what we do — protecting the Capitol of the United States and the members of Congress,” while also patrolling the campus, handling constant demonstrations and investigating threats. In response to an inspector general’s suggestion that the department focus more on being a protective agency, Manger said, “I don’t know where we can say, well, we can do a little less traditional policing.”

But he is having to do that policing with 130 fewer officers than in 2020. Mass retirements and resignations followed the Jan. 6 attack, which led to assaults on about 140 Capitol and D.C. police officers. Two Capitol Police officers also died after the riot, including one who took his own life three days after the riot. A D.C. officer shot himself nine days after the Capitol attack.

A force authorized for 2,000 sworn officers is down to 1,800, pushing Capitol Police commanders to cancel officers’ days off or planned leave, or make officers work double shifts. Manger is trying multiple moves to bulk up the force, including hiring private security contractors to staff some posts and doubling up on academy classes. But he acknowledges that he remains understaffed, and morale remains a problem.

“On the 6th,” Manger said, “you’ve got hundreds of officers who are engaged in this battle who felt like the department let them down. They didn’t have the staffing they needed. They didn’t have the equipment. They didn’t, in some cases, have the training. And many felt that there didn’t seem to be a plan. So you’ve got a morale issue immediately post-January 6.” Then officers began leaving the department, and “the workload goes through the roof; there just weren’t enough officers to handle that workload.”

Officers “couldn’t spend time with their family, they couldn’t make plans. That’s probably the biggest issue that we haven’t been able to really fix yet. ... Until we start getting them days off again and stop holding them over [for extra shifts], that morale issue remains.” Manger said he plans to hire 280 new officers in 2022.

Gus Papathanasiou, the head of the Capitol Police labor committee of the Fraternal Order of Police, agreed that “morale isn’t any better now than before January 6th” because of forced overtime and restricted leave.

“His plan to hire private security may be a short-term fix to give officers some relief in terms of additional leave, but we aren’t convinced this will occur and does not help our officers out at all. ... We had been pushing to hire more officers for years but it had fallen on deaf ears,” Papathanasiou said.

Papathanasiou also criticized Manger for not firing Yogananda Pittman, the assistant chief for protective and intelligence operations since October 2019.

“Chief Manger’s inability to hold Assistant Chief Pittman accountable for the failure of intelligence, planning, prep and communication that led to the failures of the 6th, and with the violence that officers faced, has left officers in no better position for a large scale protest, which‎ has contributed to the low morale within the department,” Papathanasiou said. He said Manger and his staff “have been willing to work with us ... but a lot of the significant positive changes will take time to make an impact.”

Manger defended keeping Pittman on board. He noted that his predecessor, Steven Sund, both sergeants-at-arms, the director of intelligence and a number of assistant and deputy chiefs all resigned in the wake of the Capitol riot.

“You want me to just have these sweeping dismissals of everybody?” Manger said. “Then where does that leave me? I think the better thing is for me to assess what I have in terms of my command staff and go from there. ... I’ve been so busy trying to look forward and trying to fix the things that need to be fixed. And when I’ve got people on my leadership team that are working every bit as hard as I am to try and fix those things and who have institutional knowledge and that were here on the 6th and can tell me what went wrong and they’re willing to work as hard as I am, that’s of value to me.”

Manger said he has addressed numerous other issues to improve the Capitol Police readiness for future large incidents. He said the biggest failures on Jan. 6 were intelligence, operational planning, the training and equipping of the civil disturbance unit, and the coordination with outside agencies, whether local police or the National Guard.

He said he had hired nine new intelligence analysts and provided them with better training than previous Capitol intelligence analysts, and a new director of intelligence is to be named soon.

“One of the things I remember vividly,” Manger said, “was the report that an officer got on the radio [on Jan. 6] and said, ‘Does anybody have a plan?’ And there was no response.” So the department hired a former Secret Service executive to devise a blueprint for large events, which it didn’t have before. Now, he said, “you’ve got a checklist and everybody knows their role.”

In June, the Senate issued a report saying the Capitol Police had specific intelligence that supporters of President Donald Trump planned to mount an armed invasion of the Capitol, but commanders didn’t share that information. The report said police intelligence officers knew that protesters planned to bring guns and other weapons to the Jan. 6 demonstration, and that they were sharing maps of the Capitol campus and discussing how to seal entry points to trap lawmakers inside.

“Intel is not an exact science,” Manger said. “That’s why you have analysts, and that’s why you have to make judgments about: Is this credible? On January 6, they made a mistake. They decided not to act on stuff that, looking back, they should have acted on. But now we’ve got a process in place. We’re really doing a deep dive in terms of analysis and really having operational contingencies. There’s not going to be any failure to imagine.”

Keeping the rank-and-file informed helps spread information effectively, Manger said. After the attack, officers were provided with a department cellphone, which they did not previously have.

“They get intelligence bulletins every single day,” Manger said. “In fact, they complain sometimes that now they’re getting too much information.”

Papathanasiou said the phones were a sign of progress.

Manger has tried to maintain staffing by offering officers a $3,000 bonus if they sign an agreement that they will stay for at least another year.

“I think around 90 percent or more of our officers signed the agreement,” the chief said. “So we’re going to have a lot less people leave this next year.”

Officers who were with the department on Jan. 6 also got a $2,000 “hazard pay” bonus, Manger said.

Manger also hopes to add up to 50 contract security officers in the coming weeks, “for certain posts where you don’t need a sworn police officer. ... That’s going to provide instant relief for some of our officers to get their days off, after the year they’ve had.” Manger also hopes to hire as many as 280 new officers from a double load of academy classes, noting that in 2020 the federal law enforcement training academy in Georgia was closed for most of the year because of COVID-19.

Manger disputed a claim by the Capitol Police inspector general, Michael A. Bolton, that only 30 of 104 recommendations made by Bolton after the attack had been implemented.

“We have addressed or are in the process of addressing over 90 of them,” Manger said, “and the inspector general has acknowledged that to me” with many classified as “resolved but open.”

As examples, he said, the civil disturbance unit had gone through additional training and is waiting for new equipment, but only 75 percent of the officers have it so the recommendation is not considered completed. The inspector general also recommended combining intelligence units into one bureau.

Papathanasiou responded, “Whether we are better prepared for a large-scale protest again is up for debate.” Pointing to the diminished workforce, he said the staff “have barely received any new training, and still don’t have the required gear for all officers.” He noted that when a September rally of Trump supporters was held at the Capitol, “we were prepared along with partner agencies, with fencing put in place and officers on-the-ready that morning, which is what we didn’t do on January 6th, which leads back to the failures of USCP leadership at the top.”

Manger cited the handling of the Sept. 18 “Justice for Jan. 6” rally as a good sign that the department could work with other agencies, and that he preferred using police civil disturbance units, and their specific training for such events, rather than the National Guard. He said virtually every local police department promised its help with such units as needed. Manger also noted that the fence around the Capitol in September was raised in 24 hours, and removed in 24 hours.

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