Admission comes as impeachment trial against Donald Trump for ‘incitement’ of the Capitol insurrection gets under way.
The interim chief of the United States Capitol Police force has apologised for “failings” during this month’s deadly attack on the building by supporters of former President Donald Trump.
In prepared testimony before Congress on Tuesday, Yogananda Pittman said Capitol Police “failed to meet its own high standards as well as yours”.
A mob of Trump supporters stormed the Capitol building in Washington, DC, on January 6 as Congress met to certify President Joe Biden’s election victory.
Five people were killed in the incident, which led to widespread condemnation and raised serious questions, among others, about how the rioters were able to enter the seat of the US legislature.
In her testimony, Pittman listed several missteps by police, including not having enough manpower or supplies on hand, not following through with a lockdown order she issued during the siege and not having an adequate communications plan for a crisis.
“We knew that militia groups and white supremacists organisations would be attending,” Pittman said in her prepared remarks.
“We also knew that some of these participants were intending to bring firearms and other weapons to the event. We knew that there was a strong potential for violence and that Congress was the target.”
Her admissions come as US law enforcement agencies investigate a number of threats aimed at members of Congress and as Trump’s second impeachment trial gets under way.
The US House of Representatives on January 13 impeached the former president for “incitement of insurrection” in relation to the Capitol riot, making Trump the only president in US history to be impeached twice.
Trump supporters tore down fences and broke through doors and windows after a speech in which he called on them to “fight” and “stop the steal”. Trump for weeks had repeated false claims that November’s presidential election was stolen from him.
The day after the riot, then-Capitol Police Chief Steven Sund said that his force “had a robust plan established to address anticipated First Amendment activities”.
Sund has since resigned, as have the sergeants-at-arms for the House and Senate.
There are conflicting accounts of why the Capitol Police did not have more backup.
In her testimony, Pittman said Sund asked the Capitol Police Board, which oversees the department, to declare a state of emergency and allow him to request National Guard support, but the board declined.
The Defense Department has said it asked the Capitol Police if it needed the Guard, but the request was denied.
Several law enforcement and congressional reviews are under way.
Both Pittman and Timothy Blodgett, the acting House sergeant-at-arms, told Congress on Tuesday that they need better communications and more fortifications around the Capitol.
Blodgett called on members of Congress to prepare for future emergencies and offered training for any offices that request it.
In the weeks since the attack, security has been heightened around the Capitol and in Washington in general, with eight-foot-high fencing surrounding the perimeter of the building.
National Guard troops were brought in for Biden’s inauguration on January 20 and about 5,000 of them will remain in Washington through mid-March.