Acting Capitol Police chief vows secure inauguration, riot investigation

The acting chief of U.S. Capitol Police says she is committed to ensuring a safe and secure presidential inauguration, and holding officers responsible if they contributed to the Jan. 6 insurrection.

In her first statement since being designated as acting chief of police on Jan. 8, Yogananda Pittman said, “I am committed to leading the United States Capitol Police Department through this challenging time.”

Pittman has been with U.S. Capitol Police since 2001, and is the first woman and person of color to lead the department. In 2012, Pittman was one of the first African American female supervisors to attain the rank of captain, according to her biography on the Capitol Police website.

Pittman’s first week in the role of acting chief comes as former Homeland Security Secretary Chad Wolf said he’s moved up the timing of the national special security event for President-elect Joe Biden’s inauguration. It will start Wednesday, instead of its original Jan. 19.

Acting U.S. Capitol Police Chief Yogananda Pittman (Courtesy U.S. Capitol Police)

“There will be no public access to the Capitol Grounds during the Inauguration, and the event will go on as scheduled,” said Pittman, in the statement released by the department on Monday.

A 7-foot-tall “non-scalable fence” was built around the complex last week.

Chief Steven Sund, who has resigned, was atop the leadership harshly criticized for lack of preparation to deal with hundreds of protesters who breached security and violently stormed the U.S. Capitol last Wednesday afternoon. Earlier that day, President Donald Trump had encouraged them to march to the Capitol, as part of his “Stop the Steal” efforts to hamper the congressional counting of electoral votes that would make Biden the president-elect.

According to Pittman: “The Department is fully engaged with our law enforcement partners throughout the National Capital Region on the Federal, state, and local levels. We have comprehensive, coordinated plans in place to ensure the safety and security of the Congressional community and the upcoming Presidential Inauguration.”

Two U.S. Capitol Police officers have been suspended after supporters of President Donald Trump stormed the U.S. Capitol, according to Rep. Tim Ryan, who chairs the House Appropriations Committee. Ryan said on Monday that there were “10 to 15” investigations into Capitol Police officers.

Pittman 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 policies.”

She said the department’s “Office of Professional Responsibility will investigate these behavior for disciplinary action, up to, and including, termination.” She said several officers have already been suspended, pending the outcome of their investigations.

Pittman’s statement began by extending gratitude for public support offered after the deaths of Officer Brian Sicknick and Howard Liebengood: “Both will be greatly missed.” The acting chief said the department will continue to provide support and services to the officers’ families, as well as to USCP employees.

Neal Augenstein

Neal Augenstein has been a reporter at WTOP since 1997. Through the years, Neal has covered many of the crimes and trials that have gripped the region. Neal's been pleased to receive awards over the years for hard news, feature reporting, use of sound and sports.

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