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Capitol security panel wants Nat’l Guard or federal agents to permanently protect Capitol

National Guard troops in Washington, D.C. (Yuri Gripas/Abaca Press/TNS)
March 09, 2021

A Capitol security panel ordered by House Speaker Nancy Pelosi recommended assembling a permanent “quick reaction force” (QRF) comprised of National Guard troops or federal agents that can respond quickly to security incidents at the U.S. Capitol and around Washington D.C.

In a draft report published Friday, the Capitol Security Review, led by retired Army Lt. Gen. Russel Honoré, recommended the formation of a dedicated QRF, comprised of either federal agents, or National Guard troops in various potential force compositions.

The security panel recommended the QRF be formed in one of three ways.

First, the emergency force could be comprised of existing federal law
enforcement agencies with the appropriate legal authorities and funding needed to staff and equip such a force.

Second, the QRF could be comprised of rotating National Guard elements from around the country, that rotate into the National Capitol Region for three to six month deployment periods.

Third, the D.C. National Guard (DCNG) could form the QRF from active Guard reserve troops who live in or near the city year-round and who are perpetually on active duty.

“Our national capital is a prominent tourist destination, venue for many peaceful First Amendment activities, and a high-value target for foreign terrorists or domestic extremists, yet it has no dedicated QRF for response to crises,” the Task Force 1-6 report reads. “The USCP relies on augmentation from other civilian law enforcement agencies for emergency support, but we recommend establishment of a robust, dedicated QRF, not only for the USCP, but to serve the nation’s capital writ large.”

The recommendation to form a QRF to respond to crises is just one of several recommendations made by the task force. The task force also recommended that around 230 job vacancies in the U.S. Capitol Police (USCP) be filled, and then to add an additional 424 members to take on roles such as intelligence specialists, operational planners, supervisors, Civil Disturbance Unit (CDU) personnel, and trainers. The task force also recommended USCP should increase the number of bomb-sniffing dogs it has and bring back its horse-mounted police unit, which was disbanded in 2005.

The task force also recommended new radio equipment, such as earpieces to better hear communications above the sound of a noisy crowd. Additionally, the task force said the USCP should implement body cameras to improve police accountability, protect police against charges of misconduct and assist in investigations and prosecutions against perpetrators of potential future incidents at the Capitol.

The recommendation for body cameras comes after a Capitol Police officer fatally shot Air Force veteran Ashli Babbitt on Jan. 6. Babbitt was standing by a broken window when she was shot by the officer standing on the other side of the window. Investigators reportedly recommended the officer not be charged for the fatal shooting.

The task force also recommended a “mobile fencing option that is easily erected and deconstructed” to replace the current razor-wire topped fencing in place around the Capitol.

The Capitol Security Review is also known as Task Force 1-6, after the Jan. 6 capitol security incident in which demonstrators entered the Capitol and clashed with police.