The following editorial appeared in The (Mankato) Free Press. It does not necessarily reflect the opinion of The Tribune-Democrat.
The violent takeover of the U.S. Capitol left many lessons for public officials and the public to wrestle with.
One issue that should get intense scrutiny is the actions and makeup of the Capitol Police and in a larger sense, the radical, often white supremacist-centered views of some in law enforcement.
Politico reports that there is strong support in Congress to remove the senior leadership of Capitol Police. That is a starting point, but Congress needs to appoint a bipartisan commission to dig deeply into the operations of the Capitol Police and develop strategies to improved the force that is charged with protecting the nation’s Capitol and lawmakers.
An in-depth report by The Associated Press also showed the sergeants at arms in both the House and the Senate who make calls on reinforcements were slow to act at the urging of the Capitol Police.
It is clear the Capitol force, while well staffed with 2,000 officers and well funded, was woefully unprepared for the large and violent crowd. There were plenty of warnings about the potential for trouble. President Donald Trump had long called for a “wild” protest as lawmakers met to certify the election results. And extremist groups had posted online threats and called for armed and violent protests.
Beyond being ill prepared, the actions of some of the Capitol Police seemed to be aimed at appeasing the rioters, with some officers stepping aside and even posing for selfies with rioters. And there were too few arrests made.
Indeed, many officers were valiantly combatting the thugs and one officer lost his life. But the general approach of Capitol Police is disturbing. The police reaction is especially stark when compared to law enforcement’s often aggressive response at some recent Black Lives Matter protests.
Media outlets have identified several current or former law enforcement officers who took part in the Jan. 6 protest. Some in law enforcement have even posted online defending the violence at the Capitol.
And media investigations have found that many online forums used by some in law enforcement are filled with white supremacist and racial rants.
Elected officials and law enforcement leaders across the country need to re-evaluate their vetting process when hiring and their systems of holding officers accountable for extremist views.
Trump and his ardent backers in Congress and elsewhere have emboldened white supremacists, neo-Nazis and racists. The country and the world saw on Jan. 6 the horrible result of that enabling.
Now it’s time for officials and the public to demand that racist officers who stain the reputation of all the decent and dedicated officers in the country be rooted out.