During the chaos at the Capitol, overwhelmed police officers confronted and combated a frenzied sea of rioters who transformed the seat of democracy into a battlefield. Now police chiefs across the country are confronting the uncomfortable reality that members in their own ranks were among the mob that faced off against other law enforcement officers.
At least 13 off-duty law enforcement officials are suspected of taking part in the riot, a tally that could grow as investigators continue to pore over footage and records to identify participants. Police leaders are turning in their own to the FBI and taking the striking step of reminding officers in their departments that criminal misconduct could push them off the force and behind bars.
The reckoning within police departments comes as plans for new demonstrations this weekend and on Inauguration Day are solidifying, with authorities warning of the potential for violence in state capitals. Participants are expected to protest election results that made Joe Biden president-elect.
“We are making clear that they have First Amendment rights like all Americans,” said Houston Police Chief Art Acevedo, who on Thursday accepted the resignation of an 18-year veteran in his department due to his involvement in the riot, which followed a rally at which President Trump urged his supporters to not accept his defeat. “However, engaging in activity that crosses the line into criminal conduct will not be tolerated.”
The revelation that officers participated in the chaos was the latest hit for law enforcement’s reputation, coming on the heels of a year in which police violence spurred nationwide protests and activists called for cutting police funding. As photographs and videos of some off-duty officers at the riot emerged on social media, some residents back home felt betrayed, while police officials worried about a black eye for the entire profession’s credibility.
Acevedo, president of the Major Cities Chiefs Association, said the behavior is so egregious that it is often fellow officers who are alerting police chiefs and others to their colleagues’ participation in last week’s mob attack on the Capitol. [Continue reading…]