Thursday, September 30, 2021

Capital police chief warns of lone-wolf attack

The newly installed chief of the U.S. Capitol Police says the force, still struggling six months after an insurrection that left its officers battled, bloodied and bruised, “cannot afford to be complacent.” The risk to lawmakers is higher than ever. And the threat from lone-wolf attackers is only growing, reported The Associated Press.

In an interview with The Associated Press, J. Thomas Manger said his force is seeing a historically high number of threats against lawmakers, thousands more than just a few years ago. He predicts authorities will respond to close to 9,000 threats against members of Congress in 2021 — more than 4,100 had been reported from January to March.

“We have never had the level of threats against members of Congress that we’re seeing today,” Manger said. “Clearly, we’ve got a bigger job in terms of the protection aspect of our responsibilities, we’ve got a bigger job than we used to.”

Intelligence gathering after the department was widely criticized for being woefully underprepared to fend off a mob of insurrectionists in January. Officials had compiled intelligence showing white supremacists and other extremists were likely to assemble in Washington on Jan. 6 and that violent disruptions were possible.

The events of that day have redefined how the U.S. Capitol Police and other law enforcement agencies in Washington approach security. Extreme measures put into place two weeks ago for a rally in support of those jailed in the riot aren’t a one-off, they might be the new normal. Propelled by former President Donald Trump, the awakening of domestic extremist groups and the continued volatility around the 2020 election have changed the calculus.

Manger said putting up temporary fencing around the Capitol and calling in reinforcements was a prudent decision. It may not be the same for every demonstration.

“It’s really going to depend on the intelligence we have beforehand,” he said. “It’s going to depend on the potential for violence at a particular demonstration.”

With Manger, the police force got a longtime lawman. He served as chief in Maryland’s Montgomery County, outside Washington, from 2004 to 2019. Before that, he led the Fairfax County, Virginia, police department. Those jobs, as well as a leadership position in the Major Cities Chiefs Association, have made him a familiar face in Washington law enforcement circles and on Capitol Hill.

He took over in late July, months after the former chief resigned amid the fallout from the insurrection. The Sept. 18 rally was Manger’s first test — and he was taking no chances.

“We just were in a position where we could not allow another January 6th,” he said. “And I really needed to ensure that the men and women of the Capitol Police department understood that we had the resources we need, the training that we needed, the equipment that we needed, and the staffing that we needed to ensure that they could do their job and do it safely.”

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