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Capitol Police teams were lacking in weapons certifications

Committees ramp up oversight of department in context of Jan. 6 insurrection

Capitol Police teams lacked weapons certifications,  according to Inspector General Michael A. Bolton.
Capitol Police teams lacked weapons certifications, according to Inspector General Michael A. Bolton. (Caroline Brehman/CQ Roll Call file photo)

The U.S. Capitol Police had potentially deadly training deficiencies on one of the force’s most lethal weapons, yet another issue that has come to light since the Jan. 6 insurrection at the Capitol.

The Containment Emergency Response Team (CERT) failed to comply with weapons certifications and the department’s First Responders Unit was not required to be certified in the M4 high-powered rifle, a weapon they carry, according to Capitol Police Inspector General Michael A. Bolton in his fourth flash report to Congress.

Bolton testified Tuesday on that report before the House Administration Committee.

“The report mentions CERT officers failed to complete the required qualifications on their assigned weapons from 2018 to 2020,” Rep. Pete Aguilar, D-Calif., said. “Twenty-nine CERT officers are required to meet quarterly qualifications on handguns. Twenty-two of the 29 failed to meet those.”

Asked by Aguilar, the vice chairman of the Democratic Conference, if there were any repercussions for the CERT officers who did not meet their weapons qualifications, Bolton said he knew of no actions taken against the officers.

Bolton, a former Secret Service agent, said officers at that agency would not “be operational” if they had not met their weapons qualification requirements.

Bolton recommended the department immediately enforce weapons qualification requirements for CERT officers on all assigned weapons.

He also recommended the First Responders Unit train together on M4 long rifle tactics and that the Capitol Police department establish a policy mandating officers in the First Responder Unit be certified on the M4 rifle. The First Responders Unit carry this rifle when standing on post or at the barriers.

Rep. G.K. Butterfield, a North Carolina Democrat, asked Bolton what the ramifications are when these officers are not certified on the M4.

“To put it as bluntly as possible, devastating,” Bolton said. “Not only for the department, but for innocent individuals.”

Chairperson Zoe Lofgren, D-Calif., said she shared Aguilar’s “astonishment” about the lack of weapons certification in the Capitol Police. Both she and Aguilar served in local government and said such certifications were mandatory.

Lofgren said, in her experience overseeing the local sheriff’s department, that she observed officers who were constantly going to the shooting range to ensure they keep their certification current “because otherwise they’re out of a job.”

Additionally, Capitol Police spent $90,075 in taxpayer dollars in 2018 and 2019 to train CERT with Northern Red Inc., a company that publicly displays symbols often associated with the white supremacist movement. CERT trained at Northern Red’s southern Virginia facility a total of six times, Bolton said.

Bolton said former Chief Matthew Verderosa, who left the department in 2019, signed off on the relationship with Northern Red. An unnamed lieutenant who was in charge of CERT at the time is no longer with CERT, but still employed by the department.

“The United States Capitol Police welcomes and is already implementing many of the recommendations detailed in the Office of Inspector General’s (OIG) fourth flash report on the Containment & Emergency Response Team (CERT) and the First Responders Unit (FRU),” an unnamed Capitol Police department spokesperson said in a statement.

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Hundreds of investigations

The Jan. 6 insurrection also played out Tuesday in another House hearing room, where FBI Director Christoper Wray told the Oversight Committee that there are still hundreds of investigations open into the attack on the Capitol.

Oversight Chairwoman Carolyn B. Maloney, D-N.Y., said her panel received documents showing the social media company Parler passed to the FBI messages referencing violence or plans to attack the Capitol at least 50 times leading up to Jan. 6.

Maloney pushed Wray to answer whether he had seen specific messages from Parler, which he said he had not. Maloney also pushed back on some of the arguments made by Republicans about the attack.

“Let’s be clear. The attack was an insurrection. It was not a peaceful protest, or a normal tourist visit. It was an insurrection,” Maloney said.

Rep. Ro Khanna, D-Calif., pressed Wray further, asking whether there had been an “intelligence failure” at the FBI.

“Wouldn’t this be an intelligence failure? If you did not have actionable intelligence and if the CEO of Parler knew what was going on and half of social media and half the folks in on the internet knew what was going on, would you describe that as an intelligence failure?”

Wray, the FBI director, said, “Sitting here right now, recognizing this — as I said, already been discussed, a sprawling investigation — I am not aware of any actionable intelligence that we failed to pass on.”

Republicans spent much of their questioning asking about the origins of the coronavirus pandemic, the FBI response to anti-police protests last year and any arrests of “peaceful” trespassers.

Rep. James R. Comer of Kentucky, the ranking Republican on the panel, argued that Democrats were not serious about gathering more information on the attack without bringing in a Capitol Police representative.

“This second hearing isn’t about gathering facts. It’s about gathering political points,” Comer said.

Rep. Gerald E. Connolly, D-Va., accused Republicans of “gaslighting” the public about the attack.

“Calling it just a bunch of tourists to get a little carried away is repugnant,” Connolly said.

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