The chief of the Washington, DC Metropolitan Police Department (MPD) told senators Tuesday that there was an initial “reluctance” to dispatch the National Guard during the January 6 riots in the United States Capitol, a resistance That left him “surprised” and “stunned”, given the severity of the violent attack.
Testifying before a pair of Senate committees, Acting Chief Robert Contee said that at 2:22 p.m. on January 6, more than an hour after his forces were summoned to the Capitol, he was part of an emergency phone call. which included leaders from the Capitol Police, National Guard and Department of the Army.
“I was surprised by the reluctance to immediately send the National Guard to the Capitol grounds,” Contee told senators from the Rules and Homeland Security committees.
It would be almost an hour before the Pentagon approved the deployment of more Guard troops to quell the violent mob, and those troops wouldn’t arrive at the Capitol until 5:40 p.m., more than four hours after Steven Sund, then. the head of the Capitol Police, had requested federal reinforcements.
That long delay has become a central focus of the Congressional investigation into the deadly assault, an investigation that was launched publicly with Tuesday’s Senate hearing.
Contee said that at 2:30 p.m., minutes after the emergency call with the Pentagon, his office had requested help from police departments as far away as New Jersey.
“From that point on, it took another 3 1/2 hours for all the rioters to be removed from the Capitol,” Contee said.
Other witnesses who testified before the Senate include Sund, former House Sergeant-at-Arms Paul Irving and former Senate Sergeant-at-Arms Michael Stenger, all of whom were in charge on January 6 but have since resigned.
Echoing the accounts of others, Contee told lawmakers that there was intelligence indicating that protests in support of the former President TrumpDonald TrumpFauci: US Political Divide Over Masks Caused Half a Million COVID-19 Deaths Bishop of Georgia Says State Republican Party Election Bill Is ‘Attempt to Suppress Black Vote’ Trump closer to legal danger after a court ruling on tax returns MORE January 6 could include “violent actions in the streets” of Washington, and could include armed protesters. But there were no signs pointing to a violent insurrection of the Capitol building.
“The District had no intelligence pointing to a coordinated assault on the Capitol,” its prepared statement reads.
Contee said there were 300 unarmed members of the DC National Guard initially deployed on the day of the attack, but only to provide traffic control and other non-interventionist services. He noted that because Washington is not a state, only the president, not DC officials, have the power to deploy the Guard.
Contee emphasized other limitations on the authority of the DC police force, including the fact that it has no jurisdiction to patrol or make arrests on Capitol Hill without an explicit request from the Capitol Police. That request, Contee testified, came from Sund shortly before 1 pm on January 6, and MPD arrived on the scene “in minutes.”
More than 1,100 district police officers would eventually respond to the attack, Contee said, and 65 of them were injured. A 66 would take his life a few days later.
“These resources were barely enough to counter an event that had never occurred in the history of the United States,” he said. “A mob of thousands of American citizens launching a violent assault on the United States Capitol … in an attempt to stop the counting of the ballots.”