How the New Capitol Police Chief Wants to Fix an Embattled Force

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I’m very grateful that this police department did not wait around for a new chief to be hired to start working on those recommendations. [Acting] Chief [Yogananda D.] Pittman and the leadership in this department, they saw the recommendations that came out of General Honoré’s report and the inspector general’s report and they’ve already put a lot of things in process to implement those recommendations. There are dozens and dozens of recommendations — maybe close to 100 when you count all of the reports that have been done. You can put them in certain categories: training, staffing, policy, equipment. You can work on many of them simultaneously.

Look, it’s not like we were lacking for courage and dedication. These men and women have that, and displayed that on Jan. 6. We’ve got plenty of that. We just need to make sure that those men and women have the support and the equipment and the training that the department needs to provide for them, and they’ll get the job done.

You’ve led traditional police departments before, in the suburban counties of Montgomery and Fairfax, that investigate robberies and make traffic stops and respond to 911 calls, all the things traditional police departments do. But the Capitol Police are unique. How do you see the agency transforming under your tenure?

You’re exactly right. Our mission is unique. Our responsibilities are different than a traditional police department in a city or town. But the fact of the matter is we are serving the public. Our overall job is to keep people safe. Dealing with protests and dignitary protection — I actually had some of those responsibilities on a smaller scale in previous jobs. I do understand what how this job is different, but there are some things that are exactly the same. You’ve got nearly 2,000 men and women who come to work every day and have the responsibility to keep a community safe. Making sure you hire the right people, giving folks the training they need, making sure that you’re holding folks accountable — those are universal concepts, and that’s a big part of a police chief’s job. In that regard, this is not altogether different than some of the responsibilities that I’ve had in the past.

But the things that do make this unique — the dignitary protection aspects of it — we do need to look at what we’re doing and ask: Do we need to improve it? Do we actually need more people to do it correctly? So, we’re not only going to look at the recommendations that come out of the inspector general’s report, but I’m also listening to the members of Congress and their staffs. What do they want? What are their expectations? We have a lot of good information to get us started, but any police department in this country can improve by looking at itself from the inside out.

For us, Jan. 6 has given us an opportunity for us to be a better police department.

Will Acting Chief Pittman be staying on the job, and, if so, what role will she have?

Chief Pittman has done an amazing job since Jan. 6. She is the one who has really led the way to getting things started on some of the improvements that need to be made. And I’m really grateful for the good work she’s done over the past six months. If I had my way, she will continue to be part of my leadership team. I think she has so many great qualities.

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