It will seem, at first glance, like this question has an easy answer; the US Capitol Police. It might be that that's the answer, but I'm not sure whether it goes more in-depth than that. During the events of this evening Trump supporters stormed the Capitol building causing the evacuation of most of the politicians inside and the temporary delay of the counting of the electoral college votes by Congress. In my mind, that's something that ought never to have happened; it's been pretty clear that something along these lines was on the cards for quite some time, and so those agencies responsible for the protection of Congress ought to have been prepared to deal with it. Despite that, the USCP was clearly unprepared for the scale of the problem they were faced with, and they failed to protect the building and the proceedings inside.

Is it the case that the USCP is supposed to be able to handle events of this kind by themselves, and has the equipment and manpower to do so, but they simply failed to bring that into play? Or are they intended only to have the ability to handle regular policing duties and they're meant to call upon some other agency in the event that they're faced with something outside those parameters? If the latter, what is that agency? Whose responsibility would it be to make the request for help? Who, ultimately, would be authorising the approval of that request for help?

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    From what I've seen, they were between a rock and a hard place. It wasn't like the protestors just swarmed up as a raging torrent of armed attackers. A few asshats just got in their head that they were going to call the bluff of the police and waltz their way forward. What are the police to do then? Open fire against a crowd of citizens on capitol grounds, not all of whom were at that time pressing forward (but would have easily been in the line of fire)? The only thing more unthinkable than that to a patriotic American is being put in a situation where that's even a possibility. Jan 7, 2021 at 1:55
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    @zibadawatimmy If someone feels strongly that the democratic process has been fraudulent, and is prepared to personally exercise their constitutional right to bear arms and form a militia, in what way can you label them as "unpatriotic"? Asinine, yes, but unpatriotic, no.
    – alephzero
    Jan 7, 2021 at 3:19
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    @zibadawatimmy Also, don't forget Samuel Johnson's definition: "Patriotism is the last refuge of scoundrels".
    – alephzero
    Jan 7, 2021 at 4:01
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    @zibadawatimmy I don't mean to suggest for a moment that the USCP present on the ground did a poor job, or should have opened fire or anything along those lines. On the contrary, they probably did the best that they could; being heavily overwhelmed and woefully under-equipped. But there are more officers in DC, and there's better crowd control equipment in DC. Those resources could (and should) have been deployed.
    – Dan Scally
    Jan 7, 2021 at 8:35
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    @DanScally Indeed, there are a number of security and law enforcement professionals voicing similar concerns, that they were woefully and inexplicably unprepared for this situation. Jan 7, 2021 at 9:04

1 Answer 1


The primary responsibility lies with the United States Capitol Police. In most cases they are sufficient to stop simple intruders. In 1998, two members of USCP were killed stopping a gunman

Weston walked through the metal detector, causing the alarm to go off. Chestnut requested he go back through the detector. Weston suddenly produced the gun and without warning, shot Chestnut in the back of the head at point-blank range. At this time, Officer Douglas McMillan, normally working outside the Capitol, was nearby retrieving keys to get a wheelchair for a tourist. As Weston shot Officer Chestnut, Officer McMillan immediately returned fire, causing Weston to shoot toward McMillan, wounding him.

Upon hearing the gunfire, Detective Gibson, who was in plainclothes, told the office staff to hide under their desks. Within seconds, Gibson was shot after the suspect entered DeLay's office. Despite being mortally wounded, Detective Gibson was able to return fire, and wound the suspect hitting him with 4 rounds, severely wounding him and causing him to be apprehended in that office by Officer Vincent Farri and Sergeant John Planchart.

Like any police force, the UCSP is not designed to stop a large surge of intruders (in a near-riot state). The USCP is not terribly large but does have a decent number on their force

Today, the USCP is comprised of more than 2,300 officers and civilian employees

Compare that to the DC Metro police

With approximately 3,800 officers and 600 civilian staff, it is the sixth-largest municipal police department in the United States.

What happened on Jan 6, 2021?

The USCP appears to work closely with the DC Police (which makes sense since their jurisdictions overlap). The main barricades set up to keep protesters back from the building were staffed by both USCP and DCPD (they have different insignias, and USCP were in blue jackets, while DCPD were in fluorescent yellow) Photo below from this AP article

DCPD and USCP fight protestors

Protesters simply overwhelmed the lines, were able to ascend to the building and broke in, where USCP then confronted protesters with gas and drawn firearms. No members of Congress were harmed. While it remains to be seen if they were ill-prepared on the front lines, the USCP clearly did its job in defending members of Congress once the mob made its way inside (i.e. the second line stopped them).

Decisions about the National Guard have to come from higher up. According to the Department of Defense, it was VP Pence and Congressional Leadership (DC does not have a governor who makes that call)

Chairman Milley and I just spoke separately with the Vice President and with Speaker Pelosi, Leader McConnell, Senator Schumer and Representative Hoyer about the situation at the U.S. Capitol. We have fully activated the D.C. National Guard to assist federal and local law enforcement as they work to peacefully address the situation. We are prepared to provide additional support as necessary and appropriate as requested by local authorities. Our people are sworn to defend the constitution and our democratic form of government and they will act accordingly.

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    I'm not sure how you reach the conclusion that "the USCP clearly did its job in defending the Capitol against an unruly mob" when the article you link is titled "Chaos, violence, mockery as pro-Trump mob occupies Congress". That's not a successful defense of the capitol. Given that there was ample warning of an attempted fascist coup, it's a disgrace.
    – tim
    Jan 7, 2021 at 10:07
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    At some point, the police just let the mob in and basically just said, "Pretty please, leave." That does not look like defending to me.
    – DarkDust
    Jan 7, 2021 at 10:34
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    @SJuan76 the alternative was not firing into the crowd. The alternative was properly planning for the days events by having riot-equipped police in far greater numbers available to prevent any incursion without having to resort to deadly force. This was a failure of planning, not of the cops on the ground (who probably did the best they could do in the circumstances)
    – Dan Scally
    Jan 7, 2021 at 11:40
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    @SJuan76 There was a mob of violent fascists in congress, showing the "strength" the president demanded and attempting to bring about the "trial by combat" his lawyer called for. Lawmakers were hiding, praying, and barricading doors. Offices were vandalized. Pipe bombs and molotov cocktails were built. Officers have been injured, one is in serious condition. That's not "some illegal action" or a "child's tantrum". And we know that police can adequately - or overly - prepare when it's not a mob of white supremacists but peaceful protestors. So there's definitely a bias in judging risks.
    – tim
    Jan 7, 2021 at 11:42
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    @SJuan76 It's a fascist mob incited by the president and enabled by the GOP storming the capitol building. If that's not a risk to the institutions, what is? And they didn't just walk in and took some pictures. It's not like this was a guided tour. They violently overpowered a (small) police line to get in, destroyed offices and windows, and left after a person was shot.
    – tim
    Jan 7, 2021 at 16:00

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