The insurrection at the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6 injured around 150 officers from the Capitol and Metropolitan Police Departments and local agencies - more than 80 from the Capitol Police alone. Now, an investigation by The New York Times reveals the long-lasting physical and psychological damage that has resulted for the officers since the riots.
"Interviews over many months with more than two dozen officers and their families (some of whom requested not to use their full names to speak frankly without permission from the department or to protect future employment prospects in the federal government), as well as a review of internal documents, congressional testimony and medical records, reveal a department that is still hobbled and in many ways dysfunctional," the Times reported.
“The department expected and planned for violence from some protesters with ties to domestic terrorist organizations,” Chief J. Thomas Manger said in a statement, “but nobody in the law-enforcement or intelligence communities imagined, on top of that threat, Americans who were not affiliated with those groups would cause the mayhem to metastasize to a volume uncontrollable for any single law-enforcement agency.”
The Times reported that, "In the year since the siege on the Capitol, about 135 officers on a force of about 1,800 have quit or retired, an increase of 69 percent over the year before. (One officer quit after enduring a string of tragedies: He suffered a stroke shortly after the assault on the Capitol and then contracted the coronavirus twice because of what he viewed as the department’s lax enforcement of mask-wearing protocols.)."
More than 500 additional officers will be eligible for retirement in the next five years, which could increase exits dramatically.
"Officers we interviewed about their decision to leave said the failures of Jan. 6 were the most egregious of a series of management crises and errors. If Jan. 6 was a national tragedy, it was also one that the officers who served at the Capitol that day experienced cruelly and intimately in their own bodies, compounding the psychic fallout that has been especially profound in people who believed that their daily work reflected the country’s highest ideals: to protect members of Congress, regardless of party, in order to protect democracy itself," the Times reported.
A man named Anton shared his thoughts on the day that changed democracy in America.
“I just wanted to help,” Anton said many months after the assault on the Capitol, after his disillusionment with the force had swelled and spilled over into so many aspects of his life that he barely recognized himself. “In the Navy, I was always the damage-control man, which is essentially like a firefighter-slash-emergency manager. So I was always in a job where I wanted to help protect people, to prevent bad things from happening. That’s who I am at the core of my life.”
“Almost a year out, it’s common for officers to still be struggling,” said one ranking officer (who asked for anonymity to speak freely without fear of reprisal). “The most challenging part of my job is trying to help those officers.”
“They lost so many of their fellow officers, including those who sadly died by suicide,” Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-MN) said. “This police department, like many across the country, is facing staff shortages, and we must fill those jobs.”
Sen. Roy Blunt (R-MO) noted the increased workload that each remaining officer endured while the department failed to retain others. “We have more overtime than the officers or their families want them to have,” he said. “You’re going to have people working harder and longer hours than you want them to work.”
Capitol Police Department Inspector General Michael Bolton said during a hearing on Dec. 7 held by the Senate Rules Committee, that “much work still needs to be addressed” in the areas of training, intelligence, overall culture and planning operations, adding that this work would require “hard changes in the department.”
Bolton said, "I think the officers are in that wait-and-see mode. They want to see what else are we going to do. And they do recognize it does take time. But also they are watching leadership, and watching the community at large. How are we going to move forward?”
If you are having thoughts of suicide, in the United States call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 800-273-8255 (TALK) or go to SpeakingOfSuicide.com/resources for a list of additional resources.