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VCU policing expert details what went wrong at U.S. Capitol

Posted at 11:31 PM, Jan 07, 2021
and last updated 2021-01-08 06:39:04-05

RICHMOND, Va. — Politicians and law enforcement experts have criticized the police response as rioters stormed the U.S. Capitol on Wednesday.

The insurgent mob of President Donald Trump supporters prompted the Capitol to lock down and delayed Congress from confirming President-elect Joe Biden’s Electoral College victory.

Dr. William Pelfrey, a professor of criminal justice and policing at VCU's Wilder School, watched on television as the demonstrators smashed and pushed their way inside.

“The Capitol Police didn’t fulfill one of their primary missions. I’m not sure why — if they were ill-prepared or simply didn’t have enough resources on hand,” Pelfrey explained. “The Senate and House were in one room together. That joint session should illicit extra protection, but the Capitol Police seemed like they were not ready for the numbers of people who arrived.”

U.S. Capitol Police (USCP) denied assistance from the National Guard and FBI before and during the riots, according to reporting by the Associated Press.

“One or two people can break into a window, that’s hard to avoid. But when hundreds of people are storming through your front door that’s something you should be able to secure. You have to be ready for back up to show up if needed,” Pelfrey stated.

Rep. Donald McEachin (D-4th District) sat inside the House chambers before the chaos.

“The Capitol is meant to be a place where people can watch democracy. I think security should’ve been tighter given the circumstances that lead up to today,” McEachin told CBS 6 as he sheltered in place on Wednesday.

Five people died including a woman who was shot by a Capitol Police officer near the House Chamber where Members of Congress were sheltering in place, according to a statement released by Capitol Police Chief Steven Sund.

Sund wrote that law enforcement partners responded valiantly when faced with thousands of individuals involved in violent riotous actions. USCP officers were also responding to several emergencies like reports of pipe bombs, he said.

The Associated Press has also confirmed that Sund will resign from his post a few days before President-Elect Biden is inaugurated.

Meanwhile, the Metropolitan Police Department (MPD) released photos Thursday of numerous individuals who officers say committed various criminal acts in the district following President Trump’s “Save America” rally.

Most of the people in the images are facing unlawful entry charges after they violently forced their way into the Capitol. Others may also be charged for stolen property, as some took items from the building when they exited.

Dan Palazzolo, an author and political science professor at the University of Richmond, believed the event will negatively impact Trump’s support.

“Generally speaking, even people who voted for Donald Trump are now going to see this as beyond what they expected,” Palazzolo said. “This is not a good look for the president obviously politically and you can only go so far. What this will do is narrow his base. It certainly won’t expand.”

Palazzolo said there is now an opportunity for President-elect Biden to get the country back on track.

“People need to start focusing on stabilizing the democracy itself. The fact that when you enter into a contest you could lose and you have to accept the fact that you could lose. You have to accept the fact that we have a system of laws that are going to guide us into that way,” he explained.

However, Pelfrey feared that the riots may fuel more events.

“Some of the images I saw today would make great recruitment videos, recruitment paraphernalia for future domestic terrorists,” he said. “Right-wing extremism just got a huge shot in the arm.”