Acting Capitol Police Chief Calls For Permanent Perimeter Fencing But D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser said she would not accept extra troops or permanent fencing "as a long-term fixture" in the city.
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Acting Capitol Police Chief Calls For Permanent Perimeter Fencing

Security fencing was erected around the Capitol following the fatal insurrection on January 6. Tyrone Turner/WAMU/DCist hide caption

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Tyrone Turner/WAMU/DCist

The acting Capitol Police chief said permanent fencing must be placed around the U.S. Capitol to fortify the building after a series of security failures led to the deadly pro-Trump insurrection there earlier this month.

Yogananda D. Pittman, the acting police chief, issued a statement Thursday that said many security upgrades to the Capitol are needed, including fencing and back-up law enforcement forces stationed nearby who can help during an emergency.

"We all have the same goal — to prevent what occurred on January 6 from ever happening again," Pittman said, referring to the date of the insurrection. "In light of recent events, I can unequivocally say that vast improvements to the physical security infrastructure must be made."

Pittman added she will work with Congress to create safety improvements. A spokesperson for Capitol Police could not immediately be reached for further comment.

After the violent mob stormed the Capitol, a 7-foot fence was erected around the perimeter, which the Secretary of the Army said would remain in place for at least 30 days.

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D.C. Councilmember Charles Allen, who leads the council's public safety committee, said any decisions about what gets built at the Capitol, including fencing, must be made by the architect at the Capitol in concert with leaders in Congress.

Allen, who represents Ward 6, which includes Capitol Hill, disavowed the idea of securing the building with permanent fencing. He said Capitol Police must "look inward" and evaluate why its leadership failed to contain the insurrection, rather than build an imposing structure that sends an unwelcome message.

"Just building an unscalable fence with barbed wire all the way around is just not the right solution," he said. "It cuts off the Capitol from the community that are its neighbors. It's not just the palace halls of democracy — this is part of a community."

Mayor Muriel Bowser said in a tweet that extra fencing and National Guard troops will remain in place around the District in coming months as the city prepares for "potentially volatile events." A city official said that the D.C. government is preparing for potential violence by right-wing extremists on March 4, the original day the U.S. Constitution set for presidential inaugurations.

But Bowser said she would not accept extra troops or permanent fencing "as a long-term fixture."

"When the time is right, the fencing around the White House and U.S. Capitol, just like the plywood we've seen on our businesses for too long, will be taken down," Bowser said.

Security has also been heightened in other parts of the city in recent months. Local and federal officials created a fortress of militarized security checkpoints and concrete barricades downtown before the inauguration to thwart violence — those barriers have since been taken down.

Fencing was also installed outside the White House over the summer, after police clashed with Black Lives Matter protesters demanding justice after the police killing of George Floyd.

Pittman, who was appointed acting police chief two days after the mob charged the Capitol, smashing windows and breaking into the Senate chamber, issued an apology earlier this week for the department's failure to adequately prepare for the events of January 6.

"I am here to offer my sincerest apologies on behalf of the department," Pittman said in testimony to the House Appropriations Committee.

Pittman told lawmakers that police knew two days before the insurrection that Congress was targeted in the attack.

Steven Sund, the former police chief who resigned under pressure after the riot, asked a three-member Capitol Police oversight board on Jan. 4 to declare a state of emergency before former President Trump's rally at The Ellipse, a park south of the White House, according to Pittman. Sund also requested National Guard troops to help protect the Capitol, she said. Both requests were denied.

The violence was planned in messages on social media sites popular with right-wing extremists for weeks, amid conspiracy theories, disinformation, and lies about the results of the election.

This story is from DCist.com, the local news website of WAMU.

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