The White House may have a permanent fence surrounding it, but the U.S. Capitol building does not. Since the Jan. 6 attack on the Capitol, the acting head of the Capitol Police believes that needs to change.
Acting U.S. Capitol Police Chief Yogananda Pittman said that a permanent fence should go up in a statement about reviews being done into the building’s physical security after the Jan. 6 breach.
“In light of recent events, I can unequivocally say that vast improvements to the physical security infrastructure must be made to include permanent fencing,” Pittman said.
She said that even before the Sept. 11, 2001 terror attacks, security experts argued more needed to be done to protect the U.S. Capitol. She added that a 2006 security assessment specifically called for a perimeter fence to be installed.
In addition to the fence, Pittman called for backup forces to be always on the ready near the Capitol.
The comments appear to be counter to what D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser would like to see done in response to the riot by former President Donald Trump’s supporters earlier this month.
“We want the city to be safe; we want all the institutions to be safe, but we don’t want extra troops or fences to be a long-term fixture,” Bowser said when asked about the temporary fencing that went up around the Capitol and other buildings after rioting.
D.C. Council member Charles Allen said that temporary security measures have a way of becoming permanent in the District.
Despite what happened when rioters stormed the Capitol, it should not be an excuse to wall off the area and “turn it into a fortress from the people,” Allen said.
Rep. Jennifer Wexton, D-Va., said she “adamantly” opposes permanent fencing in response to Pittman’s recommendation.
“A fence didn’t fail us on January 6th. Law enforcement leaders did. It is abundantly clear that we need to enhance Capitol security, but that security must be flexible to the threats we face. It’s also imperative that our law enforcement leadership takes seriously the danger of extremist violence,” Wexton said in a statement Thursday.
She also said that she believed safety could still be achieved “without walling off the symbol of our democracy,” adding, “It’s the People’s House—let’s keep it that way.”
Pittman said her staff continues to work on a physical security assessment of the complex, a review she said she ordered on the day she assumed the role of chief. Pittman replaced then-Chief Steven Sund on Jan. 8, who resigned shortly after the riot.
The union representing Capitol Police said its officers were not prepared for what unfolded at the Capitol, despite the executive team knowing that there was potential for violence during a pro-Trump rally.
Pittman said she also welcomes reviews by the police force’s inspector general and a third-party ordered by Congress regarding what happened Jan. 6.
“I am ensuring that the department will provide all of the information that is necessary to facilitate these studies,” Pittman said.
She said there is a common goal among all those reviewing the events that unfolded, which is to prevent anything like it from ever happening again.
“I look forward to working with Congress on identifying the security improvements necessary to ensure the safety and security of the Congress and the U.S. Capitol,” Pittman said.