NATIONAL NEWS

2 Capitol Police Officers Suspended, At Least 10 More Under Investigation For Alleged Roles In Riot

Jan 11, 2021, 8:46 PM

(CNN) — Two U.S. Capitol Police officers were suspended and at least 10 more are under investigation for their behavior during last week’s assault on the Capitol, and federal agents will look at whether current and former law enforcement officers played a role in the riot.

One of the Capitol police officers took a selfie with someone who was part of the mob that overtook the Capitol and the other wore a “Make America Great Again” hat and started directing people around the building, according to Rep. Tim Ryan, D-Ohio. He didn’t disclose how many other officers were under investigation but confirmed it was between 10 and 15, and didn’t say what they were being scrutinized for except that it was their behavior during the riot.

Ryan told reporters that one individual had been arrested, but a spokesperson for the congressman later said he was wrong and no members of law enforcement have been arrested.

The spokesperson said at least 10 Capitol Police officers are being investigated for their roles in the riot.

A House aide separately said there are as many as 17 officers under investigation as part of eight investigations into the insurrection at the Capitol.

In a statement Monday night, Capitol Police acting Chief Yogananda Pittman said several officers were suspended.

She said the department “has been actively reviewing video and other open source materials of some USCP officers and officials that appear to be in violation of Department regulations and policies. Our Office of Professional Responsibility will investigate these behaviors for disciplinary action, up to, and including, termination. Several USCP officers have already been suspended pending the outcome of their investigations.”

The federal investigative interest is a priority and a part of the broader investigation into the mob at the Capitol, sources said. The investigation into insurrectionist ties to law enforcement is a priority because the skills that officers are trained to use during their duties could be useful to an extremist mob, authorities say. This includes clearing rooms, taking custody of people, securing areas and handling firearms.

Democratic members of the House have also raised questions about potential sympathies for the attackers among the ranks of US Capitol Police. That agency hasn’t responded to CNN’s request for comment.

House Majority Whip Jim Clyburn, D-S.C., is among those who have other questions about whether some Capitol Police officers aided the protesters and were complicit in Wednesday’s insurrection. Clyburn, for instance, said it was fishy that the rioters knew the location of lawmakers’ offices.

Early videos — one showing a Trump supporter taking a selfie with a police officer near an entrance to the Capitol and another appearing to show police letting protesters into the building — went viral on social media.

The second video was later found to have been taken an hour after the Capitol had been breached.

Rep. Zoe Lofgren, a California Democrat who chairs one of the House committees that oversee Capitol Police, said there would be an investigation into those videos.

“A number of social media have indicated concerns about individual officers who, you know, if you look at the video, may have taken selfies with these seditionists or even let them in,” Lofgren said. “We need to thoroughly investigate that, but I also know there were many officers who responded with tremendous bravery. Many officers were injured protecting the Capitol and we do thank them for their patriotism in protecting this temple of democracy.”

Investigations Across The Country

At least seven officers in five other departments across the country have come under internal investigations as their presence in Washington during the assault comes to light through social media or other means.

One officer in New York, one in Philadelphia, two in Seattle, two in Virginia and one in Texas are under investigation by their departments for potential rules violations. Additionally, some departments have been contacted by the FBI as part of their criminal investigation into the overrunning of the Capitol.

The number may grow as investigators and the public sift through social media and lodge allegations that officers may have been involved in the siege.

Police departments have said their investigation will hinge on what type of involvement officers are found to had with last week’s assault.

“There’s a big difference between walking down Pennsylvania Avenue and expressing yourself and going into a building where rioters pushed police and hit police and pushed them out of the way to get in,” said Chuck Wexler, executive director of the Police Executive Research Forum.

“That will be the question. They just came and they marched, versus did they go inside the building and become part of a (riot).”

No law enforcement member has been charged with a crime.

More than 70 million people voted for Trump in the 2020 election and he often touted police as strong supporters. An on-duty officer was killed in last week’s assault and dozens of others were injured. The Fraternal Order of Police, which supported Trump in both the 2016 and 2020 elections, released a statement calling on him to denounce those who attacked the Capitol and urging everyone to “reject the use of violence and to obey the orders of law enforcement.”

The FBI is investigating the attack on the Capitol and members of Congress have promised investigations. A spokeswoman for the Capitol Police has not responded to requests for comment.

Wexler said almost every police department has a “conduct unbecoming” section of its rulebook that could be used to discipline officers for their conduct Wednesday. Officers can exercise their First Amendment rights but need to preserve credibility so they can testify, he said.

“Being a police officer really is different from other positions in that credibility is very important in terms of testifying in cases,” he said. “Your activity outside when you’re a police officer becomes relevant to testifying. … That worries police chiefs. That’s why you have internal affairs investigations opened up when you have reason to believe officers were involved.”

“I think it’s worth investigating. It’s totally worth investigating,” Wexler said. “You have a police officer who died as a result of these rioters. You have enormous concerns about safety, about police officers working the event.”

Wexler said investigators have will to determine whether they were just attending a rally or if they gained access to the Capitol with the mob seeking to overturn the election.

“Did they use the fact they were police officers to gain access in some way? That would be highly problematic. Did they go into the building and follow others who broke into the building? That would be highly problematic and could cost them their job,” Wexler said.

Departments Working With FBI

Spokespeople for the Houston, Los Angeles, San Jose, San Antonio, San Diego, Phoenix and Denver police departments have said their agencies have not been contacted by the FBI and there aren’t any open internal investigations into officers.

Chicago police are investigating whether members violated rules or laws but haven’t found any evidence so far, a spokesman said. Dallas police haven’t responded to a request for comment.

The New York Police Department has opened an investigation into one member of the police department, according to New York Police Commissioner Dermot Shea.

“There is one investigation that is active on one member,” he told CNN affiliate NY1 Monday.

“There is no name yet released because we don’t know if it’s true or not. … Anyone committing crimes certainly would have a very short shelf life with the NYPD.”

The Philadelphia Police Department is investigating whether one of its detectives participated in the riots. A department spokesman said the department was aware of social media posts that allegedly show a member of its force at the Capitol on Wednesday.

“At this time, we are aware of social media posts that allege that a PPD detective may have been in attendance at the events on Washington, DC on Jan. 6,” Gripp said. “An IAB investigation has been opened to determine if any PPD polices were violated by the detective, and if they participated in any illegal activities while in attendance. The detective’s assignment has been changed pending the outcome of the investigation.”

The Seattle police department has placed at least two officers on administrative leave while officials investigate whether they took part in the riot, the department’s chief — Adrian Diaz — said in a statement on Friday night.

“The Department fully supports all lawful expressions of First Amendment freedom of speech, but the violent mob and events that unfolded at the US Capitol were unlawful and resulted in the death of another police officer,” the statement read. “The incident has been forwarded to the Office of Police Accountability for full review of any SPD employee activities at the US Capitol.”

The chief added he will immediately fire any officer found to have taken part in the mob at the Capitol.

Two Rocky Mount, Virginia, police officers are on administrative leave after attending the demonstrations in Washington, according to the Rocky Mount Police Department.

“The Town of Rocky Mount fully supports all lawful expressions of freedom of speech and assembly by its employees but does not condone the unlawful acts that occurred that day,” the department said in a statement. “Based on the available information, the Police Department has notified federal authorities and the individuals that were present at the event are on administrative leave pending review.”

In Texas, the Bexar County Sheriff’s Office is initiating an internal affairs investigation after a lieutenant, who has been on administrative leave for an unrelated ongoing internal affairs investigation, posted selfies and photos to social media identifying herself as a Bexar County Sheriff’s Office employee while attending the pro-Trump rally in Washington, according to the office.

In a video statement sent to CNN, Sheriff Javier Salazar said he was notified about the posts to his personal social media account.

“I then took those screenshots and forwarded them to my chiefs and ordered them to initiate an internal affairs investigation on the administrative violations, if any,” he said. “Then I turned those same screenshots over to the FBI.”

“Now, I know that the FBI is probably going to be the handling agency to look at the whole incident, and they’re going to determine what, if anything, people did that was criminal and then maybe some people there were just peaceful protesters. At this point, to be fair, I don’t know what her involvement is, but I turned this information over to the FBI to allow them to factor it into their ongoing investigation.”

The lieutenant has been on administrative leave since October, according to Salazar, and she had been stripped of all her agency property and her credentials.

“Right now, she doesn’t wear a uniform, she doesn’t carry a badge. It is unpaid administrative leave. It is not determined yet, at what point that investigation is over with. To be fair, we don’t know what the outcome will be of that, but certainly this is going to tend to complicate that other investigation as it unfolds,” he said.

This story has been updated with additional information on police involvement in last week’s riot at the U.S. Capitol.


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2 Capitol Police Officers Suspended, At Least 10 More Under Investigation For Alleged Roles In Riot