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After Riot, Acting Capitol Police Chief Calls For Permanent Fencing Around Complex

Fencing and a heavy law enforcement presence are seen around the U.S. Capitol on Thursday, eight days after President Biden's inauguration.
Tasos Katopodis
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Fencing and a heavy law enforcement presence are seen around the U.S. Capitol on Thursday, eight days after President Biden's inauguration.

Updated at 5:05 p.m. ET

The acting U.S. Capitol Police chief is recommending the complex be fitted with permanent fencing to help better secure Congress, as lawmakers and law enforcement officials continue to grapple with fallout from the Jan. 6 insurrection by violent pro-Trump extremists.

Yogananda Pittman, who took the helm of the force following the riot, said in a statement Thursday that "vast improvements" were needed for the physical security of the Capitol area to prevent a repeat of the deadly attack earlier this month.

"[E]ven before September 11, 2001, security experts argued that more needed to be done to protect the U.S. Capitol. In fact, a 2006 security assessment specifically recommended the installation of a permanent perimeter fence around the Capitol," Pittman said in the statement.

"In light of recent events," she added, "I can unequivocally say that vast improvements to the physical security infrastructure must be made to include permanent fencing, and the availability of ready, back-up forces in close proximity to the Capitol."

According to an aide for the Committee on House Administration, the Capitol Police Board would need to approve such fencing, and the House Appropriations Committee would need to fund it.

Muriel Bowser, the mayor of Washington, D.C., wrote on Twitter Thursday that while there are "some potentially volatile events upcoming that will require extra security," the city "will not accept extra troops or permanent fencing as a long-term fixture in DC."

Fencing remained around parts of the Capitol complex on Thursday — eight days after President Biden's inauguration, and more than three weeks after the attack.

The Jan. 6 riot ultimately left five people dead and highlighted a number of failures by security forces assigned to the Capitol.

Pittman, who in testimony to Congress apologized for her agency's "failings" in the incident, said a review of potential safety improvements was ongoing.

"I look forward to working with Congress on identifying the security improvements necessary to ensure the safety and security of the Congress and the U.S. Capitol."

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Alana Wise joined WAMU in September 2018 as the 2018-2020 Audion Reporting Fellow for Guns & America. Selected as one of 10 recipients nationwide of the Audion Reporting Fellowship, Alana works in the WAMU newsroom as part of a national reporting project and is spending two years focusing on the impact of guns in the Washington region.
Alana Wise
Alana Wise is a politics reporter on the Washington desk at NPR.