Capitol Police Internal Memo Shows Jan. 6 Plans Were Insufficient

Capitol Police Internal Memo Shows Jan. 6 Plans Were Insufficient protesters storm us capitol Protesters clash with police and security forces as people try to storm the U.S. Capitol on January 6, 2021, in Washington, D.C. (Brent Stirton/Getty Images)

By Sandy Fitzgerald | Friday, 29 October 2021 08:03 AM

A Capitol Police internal memo, dated the day before the violent events at the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6, reveals a plan for action that proved insufficient to control what ended up happening.

The 17-page document, reviewed by Politico, started with an analysis stating that "at this time, there are no specific known threats related to the Joint Session of Congress Electoral College Vote Certification," and went on to show the department was aware violence would occur, but that full plans were not made for enough defensive action.

Further, the memo detailed that the Capitol Police were prepared for anti-Trump counter-protesters to cause problems with the pro-Trump marchers, but as it turned out, those concerns were not warranted.

The document contained five "mission objectives," but none ended up working out, reports Politico:

1. "To provide an environment in which lawful first amendment activity can be safely demonstrated."

2. "To prevent any adverse impact to the legislative process associated with unlawful demonstration activity."

3. "To effectively mitigate actions associated with civil disorder; safely respond to crimes of violence and destruction/defacing of property."

4. "To safeguard and prevent any property damage directed at the US Capitol, West Front Inaugural Platform, and all Congressional buildings."

5. "Establish and maintain a fixed march route while excluding access to counter-protestors to minimize the potential for violent interactions."

The fifth objective, concerning a fixed march route, dissolved quickly when the protesters pushed past the police barricades to storm the Capitol, Politico reports.

The document also detailed plans for dealing with the counterprotesters that never became a factor on Jan. 6.

The memo said the anti-Trump protesters "will be expected to attempt to gain access by entering shrubbery and other natural fixtures" and that "it is anticipated that a march will likely progress into the Capitol Grounds," with Washington’s Metropolitan Police Department to escort the marcher and with the Capitol Police's Civil Disturbance Unit platoons to block counterprotesters from entering the march route.

A Capitol Police spokesperson told Politico, in response to the memo, that the department has been saying publicly for some time that it knew people were planning violence, but that "no law enforcement or intelligence agency predicted the large-scale attack that ended up happening." However, the Capitol Police have come under fire for overemphasizing threats coming from counterprotesters while not focusing on what the main protesters could do.

The newest document also shows that even though the Capitol Police had planned to combat violence on Jan. 6, their preparation was not adequate.

For example, officers bearing less-than-lethal weapons were stationed to break up crowds if protesters at the East and West Front restricted area at the Capitol posed a risk to officers or damage to property, especially the inaugural platform.

The platform was swamped with protesters on Jan. 6, however, according to photos from that day.

The department also deployed plainclothes officers, a practice that has faced criticism nationwide from people who say the officers could hinder people from exercising their First Amendment rights.

It also is not clear how much intelligence the plainclothes officers were able to gather, notes Politico, quoting one officer who said he was not aware of any warnings from them before the attackers started to hit the police barricades.

"Our counter surveillance teams are not undercover," the Capitol Police spokesperson said through a statement. "What we mean by that is that they do not act as protesters in the crowd. Nor do they infiltrate the crowd. They dress in plain clothes and post up around the city to monitor the crowd. That information is passed onto supervisors."

The spokesperson also pointed out that a countersurveillance team was who found one of the two pipe bombs that had been planted that day.

Meanwhile, the Capitol Police have implemented several security measures since Jan. 6, including improving intelligence sharing with its law enforcement partners and working to improve its coordination with the intelligence community.

It has also bought more gear such as less-than-lethal munitions, helmets, shields, and batons, and has used a Defense Department loan to purchase surveillance technology.