Two Capitol police officers have been suspended as a result of their actions during the storming of the US Capitol, as pressure mounts on law enforcement to hold rioters accountable and to secure Washington DC from further violence ahead of Joe Biden’s inauguration next week.
Tim Ryan, a Democratic senator of Ohio, told reporters on Monday that one of the officers took a selfie with someone and the other put on a “Make America Great Again” hat. He says of the latter that the “interim chief determined that to be qualifying for immediate suspension”.
Thousands of pro-Donald Trump insurrectionists stormed the Capitol last Wednesday, forcing lawmakers to flee and hide. Five people died, including a Capitol police officer.
Several people have already been arrested in connection with the riot, including Richard Barnett, who was photographed with his feet atop a desk in Nancy Pelosi’s office; Jacob Anthony Chansley, who also goes by the name of Jake Angeli; Adam Christian Johnson, who was photographed carrying away Pelosi’s lectern; and Derrick Evans, a recently elected West Virginia lawmaker. Chansley had his first court hearing Monday.
Ryan said says Capitol police were looking at everybody involved that could have potentially facilitated the incursion “at a big level or small level in any way”. He said they did not want an officer working on Joe Biden’s inauguration “who was not doing the job on the January 6 event”.
The Capitol police force on Monday named Yogananda Pittman as the new acting chief of the force, which was plunged into crisis by the security breach.
Her appointment, which follows the resignation of the former chief Steven Sund in the wake of the attack, is historic. Pittman is the first woman and the first Black American to lead the law enforcement agency, the Capitol police confirmed to the US public radio network NPR.
Pittman said that the police department was “actively reviewing video and other open source materials of some [Capitol] officers and officials that appear to be in violation of department regulations and policies.”
“Our office of professional responsibility will investigate these behaviors for disciplinary action, up to, and including, termination. Several [Capitol] officers have already been suspended pending the outcome of their investigations,” she said in a statement Monday evening.
The developments come amid growing concerns of further violence in the run up to Biden’s inauguration on 20 January. The FBI has warned of armed protests planned in Washington and all 50 US state capitals. Washington DC has declared a state of emergency ahead of inauguration day, with the city’s mayor, Muriel Browser, saying she is worried about more attacks.
“If I’m scared of anything, it’s for our democracy, because we have very extreme factions in our country that are armed and dangerous,” Bowser said at a Monday news conference. “Our goals right now are to encourage Americans to participate virtually and to protect the District of Columbia from a repeat of the violent insurrection experienced at the Capitol and its grounds on January 6.”
In other steps to safeguard the US capital, the national guard was authorized to send up to 15,000 troops to Washington, and tourists were barred from visiting the Washington Monument until 24 January.
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