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U.S. Capitol Police are facing intense criticism after officers were overrun by rioters in the deadly January 6 attack. The agency is now at one of its most challenging moments in its history, facing low officer morale, growing resignations and simply running out of money. Now, they have a new leader vowing to revamp the department. NPR congressional reporter Claudia Grisales talked to the new chief on his first day on the job.
CLAUDIA GRISALES, BYLINE: The horrifying scenes from the January 6 attack on the Capitol paralyzed many who watched. But retired Police Chief Tom Manger had a different reaction that day.
THOMAS MANGER: It was the first time since I had been retired that I wished that I was not retired.
GRISALES: Manger ran two of the biggest departments in the D.C. metropolitan area in a career that spanned more than 40 years. In 2019, he walked away as Montgomery County police chief in Maryland, thinking he was done. But the attack forced Manger to rethink those plans after the department came under fire after the siege.
MANGER: People have defined them by one day. And it's not fair, and it's certainly not accurate. This is a great police department.
GRISALES: Now, Manger is spreading the word that he's helping turn a new chapter for Capitol Police.
MANGER: My message to them is, look, we're going to earn that confidence back.
GRISALES: Manger took the reins from acting police chief Yogananda Pittman. She took over after former police chief Steven Sund resigned within hours after the attack. Rank-and-file officers gave leaders a vote of no confidence. The agency has a reputation for not talking to the public, but Manger says that's going to change.
MANGER: I believe in transparency. I believe in accountability. I believe that the public has a right to know what we do and why we do things. And they have the right to ask questions about how their police department does their job.
GRISALES: He says he won't lose sleep over Republicans who reject the events of January 6, and his focus is on improving officer morale, getting them the resources they need and protecting lawmakers regardless of their party.
MANGER: Ultimately, it's our responsibility to ensure that the members of Congress are safe.
GRISALES: And Manger says that also means letting the public know what Capitol Police are capable of in new hands. And he thinks they got a preview on January 6.
MANGER: These men and women are dedicated professionals who demonstrated amazing courage on January 6.
GRISALES: Manger's to-do list is long and fraught with political peril at a time when Democrats and Republicans cannot even agree on their own security.
Claudia Grisales, NPR News, Washington.
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