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Illustration by Security Management

Flood of Panic Calls Overwhelmed Capitol Police Protocols on 6 January, Report Found

The investigation into security failures during the 6 January riot at the U.S. Capitol continues—a new report found that U.S. Capitol Police didn’t respond adequately when fellow officers pressed the panic buttons on their radios to call for immediate backup.

According to the Associated Press, the inspector general’s report found that most of the emergency activations from officers’ radios were never simulcast on police radio, which would have spread the word about emergencies and crises—including when officers were being beaten with bats, poles, and other weapons by rioters. The on-duty watch commander was not made aware of at least some of the system activations, which limited the ability to quickly rally additional forces to the area.

Senior department officials resorted to using their cell phones on 6 January to leave radio channels open for transmissions. One law enforcement officials told the AP that because so many officers were pressing their panic buttons, their colleagues couldn’t respond to all calls and had to prioritize.

The report—part of a series of assessments from the Capitol Police inspector general—focused on deficiencies in the Capitol Police Command and Coordination Bureau, which prepares for special events and responds to emergencies at the Capitol. The inspector general detailed alleged outdated and vague policies, as well as problems in preparedness, coordination, and emergency planning, AP reported.

In a statement, Capitol Police said that its policies were being updated and a comprehensive training plan is in development.

Since 6 January, the statement said, “the Department has been working to improve the effectiveness of communication during critical incidents, to include the development of new and improved policies, practices and procedures for monitoring emergency signals as well as communication with our local and federal law enforcement partners.”

For more about mass notification and critical communications during mass unrest or other emergencies, see the February 2021 edition of Security Technology.