Chanting “Stop the steal!” they pushed past police barricades and lines of officers, and broke into the U.S. Capitol building where Congress was forced to temporarily halt counting the 2020 Electoral College votes, Politico and the Wall Street Journal recount.
Summing up the violence, FBI Director Christopher Wray has called the Jan. 6 attack an act of “domestic terrorism.”
Could it happen again?
Investigations have resulted in numerous arrests, but an ongoing congressional probe into the planning behind the riot has been stymied by the refusal of Trump era officials and allies to testify.
Some fear that many extremist government opponents are taking the wrong message from the fact that the probes have been stalled―and pursuing similar efforts to subvert majority rule at the local level.
“The Capitol riot continues in statehouses across the country, in a bloodless, legalized form that no police officer can arrest and that no prosecutor can try in court,” said a New York Times editorial this week..
‘Taking No Chances’
Leaders are quick to say that they feel more equipped to handle any attack or incident than they did last year, but no one is ready to declare whether or not the threat has passed.
U.S. Capitol Police Chief Tom Manger told WTOP, “I’m not taking any chances.”
Later, speaking to Politico, Manger said, “The last thing that I want to do is say, ‘this could never happen again’ and have it sound like a challenge to those people.”
Manger, who took over the Capitol Police department in August after his predecessor’s ouster following the siege, continued, adding, “I’m not trying to be overconfident. We are much better prepared.”
In speaking to the Wall Street Journal, Manger noted that the Department of Homeland Security and nearby law-enforcement agencies along with state and local law enforcement are on heightened patrol this week for the anniversary, noting that there are no specific or credible threats.
Part of this newfound preparation includes department-issued phones that provide-real-time emergency alerts. This is an improvement from last year’s threat, considering the flood of radio traffic consequentially drowned out key messages, and left officers essentially leaderless during the attack, Politico details.
Moreover, Manger shared how he’s working to improve security on Capitol grounds, adding that he doesn’t think the American public or Congress could tolerate “another failure” from the U.S. Capitol Police Department.
At last count, 135 officers have retired or resigned since Jan. 6, 2021, according to Politico, and the force as a whole is “probably 400 officers down from where we should be,” Manger adds.
See Also: ‘I Was Tortured’: Emotional Jan. 6 Testimony from Officers
Even at the time of the attack a year ago, subsequent reviews of the Capitol Police force determined that it was “significantly understaffed.”
“We’re going to err on the side of doing more than we perhaps need to,” Manger told WTOP, who said he goes to work every day with one goal in mind: “To make sure that everybody here is safe.”
This includes newfound confidence after President Joe Biden signed a bill that allows the Capitol police to call out the National Guard in an emergency, bypassing an old system where a board of four voting members would have to grant the authority, Forbes reports.
Advocates note that since Jan. 6, the department has had to investigate more than 9,000 potential threats made against members of Congress — a tenfold increase since 2016.
“We’re barely keeping our head above water in terms of looking at these cases,” Manger told the Wall Street Journal, adding that he is seeking to hire more analysts to monitor the rise.
Are More Prosecutions Coming?
One year later, hundreds of individuals face charges related to their involvement in the rally and insurrection, but questions still remain about what legally comes next, CBS News reports.
Prosecutors have called the case “unprecedented” in scale, stating in court that the Capitol attack “is likely the most complex investigation ever prosecuted by the Department of Justice” with nearly 700 individuals charged with alleged crimes stemming from the riot. The most common offense has been trespassing on restricted property.
Of that charge, more than 160 people have already plead guilty and receive generally no jail time for the misdemeanor.
Hundreds of others have been charged with low-level counts of illegal picketing and disorderly or disruptive conduct on the grounds, while on the flip side, more than 30 people have been charged with theft of government property and 225 defendants have been charged with assaulting, impeding, or resisting law enforcement, CBS News adds.
On the extreme end of the spectrum, some 75 individuals are accused of using a deadly or dangerous weapon against officers —including chemical irritants, flagpoles, and even a tomahawk axe. So far, CBS News notes, approximately 30 Capitol attack defendants who admitted to committing crimes on Jan. 6 have been sentenced to time behind bars.
No one has been charged with sedition, or attempting to overthrow the government.
According to one estimate by the government, up to 2,500 people who participated in the Jan. 6 events could face federal charges.
See Also: Proud Boys Member Pleads Guilty, Agrees to Cooperate in Jan 6 Investigation
What Does the Future Hold?
Many advocates are focusing attention on long-term reform and systemic change.
“[T]he Department still has more work to achieve the goal of making the Capitol Complex safe and secure,” independent watchdog Michael Bolton told senators recently, according to Politico.
Bolton issued monthly reports throughout 2021, identifying problems that impacted the Capitol Police’s response to the riot, finding that much still needs attention.
But of the 104 recommendations delivered by Bolton’s office, the Capitol Police has only fully implemented one-third so far, he told senators. To that end, Manger reports that 60 are substantially, if not fully complete, but aren’t included in the tally.
Fundamentally, Bolton argues that the Capitol Police should function more like a protective agency — similar to the Secret Service — rather than a police department.
Bolton recommended that all officers obtain secret- or top secret-level security clearances, which involve extensive background checks. The inspector general said this would raise the caliber of recruits and guard against potential insider threats; department leaders resisted the move.
Manger told Politico that Bolton’s goal may be worthy, but it’s premature and not universally necessary as the department struggles to fill open positions.
“If we require every officer to have a security clearance, we’re slowing down that process,” Manger said, adding that the department conducts comprehensive vetting during hiring.
In terms of the future of the January 6 special committee, CNN reports that they’re working toward a goal of releasing an interim report with findings by the summer of 2022, with the final report following in the fall of this year.
Almost all of the current committee’s work has been done behind closed doors, including hundreds of private depositions with witnesses, including former aides to former President Donald Trump, “Stop the Steal” rally organizers, and election officials who were pressured to overturn the results.
Democratic Rep. Adam Schiff of California told CNN in December that he was advocating for public hearings, saying they would “tell the whole story” and give the American public their own perspective.
Additional Reading: DHS Warns of Growing Threat From Domestic Extremists
Andrea Cipriano is Associate Editor of The Crime Report