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Security Assessment Of The Capitol Calls For 854 More Officers

MARY LOUISE KELLY, HOST:

OK. A task force directed to evaluate U.S. Capitol security failures around the January 6 insurrection has now issued its report. It is directing Capitol Police to hire hundreds of new officers, to create specialized law enforcement teams for emergencies and to install a retractable fencing system. After a bipartisan briefing on the report, House Representative Pramila Jayapal said security was neglected and must be addressed.

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PRAMILA JAYAPAL: Those are substantial problems that didn't just come about immediately. They are a failure for us to invest over years in our security.

KELLY: The task force was led by retired Lieutenant General Russel Honore at the direction of House Speaker Nancy Pelosi. NPR congressional reporter Claudia Grisales has been looking at the report. She joins us now.

Hey, Claudia.

CLAUDIA GRISALES, BYLINE: Hey, Mary Louise.

KELLY: All right, so what are the headlines here from General Honore's report, and what's he recommending be done?

GRISALES: This is our first deep dive into the Capitol security weaknesses we saw unfold that day of the insurrection. Now, this task force has issued this 13-page report recommending that Capitol Police hire 854 new officers to add to the 2,100 law enforcement personnel they already have today. They also want to see the expansion of a civil disturbance unit to respond to demonstrations at the Capitol and that they can be activated beyond just special events and to be on deck any time Congress is in session.

They also think a quick response team needs to be created. They could be comprised of members of the National Guard or area law enforcement. And they could also respond to emergencies. They also say that the fencing that's there today could be replaced by a mobile and retractable fencing system, and this addresses some of the complaints that we've heard with the current system, that this fencing that's there now can't be left permanently and requires a level of security that is unsustainable. And as we heard at the top there, some Democrats such as Jayapal are already expressing support.

KELLY: OK, so a recommendation to hire a lot of new officers for Capitol Police. This report is providing a deep look into that and other shortfalls for Capitol Police. What more did it say?

GRISALES: They said Capitol Police have operated understaffed and under-resourced. For example, some officers did not have earpieces or riot gear on January 6, and they also don't have body cameras for the agency. They want that to change. They want all officers to have access to this kind of equipment. And they want to empower the head of the Capitol Police to be able to pull in military backup without having to go through a Capitol Police board for approval. This is part of what slowed down the response before and the day of. And they also want the D.C. National Guard commander to have the authority to send in that response without having to seek higher levels of approval. That's another reason for the hours-long delay that day.

The task force is also recommending the expansion of canine units and the installment of mounted patrol. This is something Capitol Police did away with in 2005. And they also want to boost a uniform security system for members on Capitol grounds and at their districts and in their homes.

KELLY: Now, I gather, Claudia, that not all Republicans are on board with the findings of this report. What are they saying?

GRISALES: Exactly. Republicans have been critical of the review. They've called it partisan. For example, GOP leader Kevin McCarthy of California raised concerns of partisanship when it comes to Pelosi and Honore's roles in this. But McCarthy said he met with Honore last Wednesday to discuss the findings, and he agrees with some of them - for example, this Capitol Police board, which is comprised of the police chief, the two chamber's sergeant at arms and a member of the architect of the Capitol. That needs to be revamped. He also said the report raises unacceptable possibilities that it could be turned into a fortress.

KELLY: OK.

GRISALES: But this is all key on whether they decide to fund all these changes. And we're still waiting for a price tag.

KELLY: All right, NPR's Claudia Grisales.

GRISALES: Thank you. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.