The 4 Biggest Unknowns In The Disciplinary Cases Against Capitol Police For Jan. 6

WASHINGTON, DC - JANUARY 06:  Police try to hold back protesters who  gather storm the Capitol and halt a joint session of the 117th Congress on Wednesday, Jan. 6, 2021 in Washington, DC. (Kent Nishimura / Los Angeles Times)
WASHINGTON, DC - JANUARY 06: Police try to hold back protesters who gather storm the Capitol and halt a joint session of the 117th Congress on Wednesday, Jan. 6, 2021 in Washington, DC. (Kent Nishimura / Los Angele... WASHINGTON, DC - JANUARY 06: Police try to hold back protesters who gather storm the Capitol and halt a joint session of the 117th Congress on Wednesday, Jan. 6, 2021 in Washington, DC. (Kent Nishimura / Los Angeles Times via Getty Images) MORE LESS

The U.S. Capitol Police’s response to the Jan. 6 Capitol attack has faced months of congressional investigations as well as an internal review, and the latter bore some news on Saturday: The department’s Office of Professional Responsibility has recommended that several officers be disciplined for their actions that day. 

But we don’t know… much else. Here are the most pressing questions from the weekend’s news: 

Who faces disciplinary action? 

In all, according to a press release from the department, the office was able to identify 26 officers at the center of 38 internal investigations launched after the attack. And of those 26, no wrongdoing was found in 20 cases. 

So, according to the release, disciplinary action was recommended in six cases. The results of an investigation into yet another case are still pending. 

That’s a tiny percentage of the department’s police force, but a key question remains: Who are these officers? For now, that’s secret.  “USCP internal investigations, including any recommended disciplinary actions, as well as personnel matters are not public information,” the release said.

Are these the same officers who were suspended in February? 

The secret nature of the investigation means we also don’t know if these are the same officers singled out shortly after the attack. 

In February, the department revealed that it was investigating the actions of 35 officers, and that six had been suspended with pay. We don’t know if these six officers are the same ones described on Saturday.

The department’s then-acting chief, Yogananda Pittman, testified in February that such investigations typically follow 60- to 90-day timelines — and that was 200 days ago. 

What are they facing disciplinary action for? 

Saturday’s press release laid out some basics on the conduct deemed worthy of punishment, listing three cases of conduct unbecoming of an officer, one case of failure to comply with directives, one case of improper remarks and one case of improper dissemination of information. 

None of these violations rose to the level of a criminal offense, the department said.

But beyond that, we know little detail: Did the officers facing disciplinary action take selfies with rioters or pose with Trump hats? Was it something they said or did? Did the alleged violations occur at the front lines outside of the Capitol? Inside Congress? And when did they happen? As the attack began? Or perhaps hours later, as rioters trickled out of the Capitol? 

Will Capitol Police leadership face any repercussions? 

That’s what the police force’s union wants to know, anyways. The union’s leader, Gus Papathanasiou, said in February that the investigations appeared to be “an attempt by U.S.C.P.’s upper management to divert the attention away from their significant leadership failures of Jan. 6.” And he struck the same chord on Sunday

“Even one incident of an officer not fulfilling their duty is one too many,” Papathanasiou said. “Yet, we have leaders still on the payroll who completely failed to fulfill their duties, up to and during the Capitol attack, who have evaded all consequences.” 

“Some of those leaders that were in charge on January 6th failed miserably on that day and have since been promoted as they hide in plain sight,” he added 

The chief of the Capitol Police during the attack, Steven Sund, resigned afterward. But Papathanasiou singled out Pittman, who has served as assistant chief for protective and intelligence operations since October 2019, and who served as the department’s acting chief from Jan. 8 until July 23, when the current chief, J. Thomas Manger, was sworn in.

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