After confrontations at the US Capitol led to multiple arrests, the question remains: how could a security breach of this magnitude occur? And what could have been done to stop it?
Washington, D.C. Police Chief Robert Contee called the gathering a riot, saying those outside the Capitol broke in using chemical irritants to subvert officers – but what would or could have been done differently is still up for debate.
“It’s a delicate balance of trying to maintain order without creating more disorder,” former University of Cincinnati Police Chief Gene Ferrara explained.
Ferrara has spent decades training officers, but admits what happened at the Capitol is unlike anything he’s witnessed first hand.
“The crowds are more organized today,” he said. “Some of the people that want to cause problems have also trained in how to use a crowd to do that.”
Washington, D.C. law enforcement said it didn’t take long for things to get out of hand.
“As the demonstrators approached the United States Capitol grounds, there was a noticeable change in their demeanor,” Contee said. “They breached the fencing along the U.S. Capitol grounds and confronted police lines surrounding the building.”
To those who would ask, “Why not use more force to subdue those who would break the windows of the U.S. Capitol?” Ferrara said there’s no easy answer.
“It doesn’t become this, 'Well, as many of us as we can, let’s go get them,’” he said. “That’s really disjointed and it creates more problems than it solves.”
Ferrara said officers also have to worry about being baited into an even more dangerous situation.
“There are organizers and people who train in how to use that crowd as a weapon against the police and against society in general,” he said.
While the best approach to the violence displayed will be debated in the days and weeks to come, one thing is clear: “Anyone who has engaged in these activities, continues to engage in these activities, will be held accountable,” Washington Mayor Muriel Bowser said.
The U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of Ohio echoed Bowser’s sentiment, tweeting that anyone from the Cincinnati area who broke the law at the Capitol will be prosecuted.
Make no mistake... Federal crimes were committed today at our nation’s Capital building. Anyone who traveled from the Southern District of Ohio with the intent to commit such crimes will be prosecuted in the Southern District of Ohio.
— David DeVillers (@USAttyDeVillers) January 6, 2021