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In the wake of the Capitol Hill riots, morale among the rank-and-file in the Capitol Police Department is flagging, multiple sources have told CBS News.
The sources, who are familiar with the internal U.S. Capitol Police response to Wednesday’s events, said the department has had to respond to “a couple of incidents” in which officers threatened to harm themselves. In one case, a female officer turned in her own weapon out of fear of what might happen.
“The situation has really demoralized the department. There’s tremendous moral injury, a sense of failure weighing them down,” one source said. “They went home to family and were asked, ‘how did this happen?’ And it’s very easy for those officers to interpret that as ‘how could you let this happen?’”
To address this, mental health and suicide prevention resources have been made widely available. Former Capitol Police Chief Steven Sund, who resigned after the attack, said at his home Monday that the department is “very resilient,” but “they’re hurting right now,” and he reiterated that “we’ve brought in resources to help them.”
On Wednesday, thousands of Trump supporters stormed the Capitol, pushing past Capitol Police officers whose numbers were inadequate to stop them. Rioters forced Congress to evacuate as lawmakers counted electoral votes to affirm President-elect Joe Biden‘s election victory.
Sund said that he asked for National Guard reinforcements but was rebuffed by the Army leaders who approve their deployment in Washington, D.C. “I needed boots on the ground, immediate assistance right then and there, helping to form police lines to help secure the foundation of the United States Capitol building,” Sund said. “They were more concerned with the optics.”
Two Capitol police officers who responded to the assault have died. Forty-two-year-old Brian Sicknick was injured in the melee and died a day later.
And a few days after responding to the riots, Officer Howard Liebengood died while he was off duty. Former Capitol Police Chief Terry Gainer characterized his death as a “line of duty casualty,” and stated that it had been no less of a line-of-duty casualty than Sicknick’s death.
Morale deteriorates among Capitol police after assault on Capitol The British Journal Editors and Wire Services/ CBS News.