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New Capitol Police Chief Defends The Agency In The Wake Of The Jan. 6 Riot

Tom Manger, a veteran police chief of departments in the Washington, D.C., region, is seen Friday as he takes over the United States Capitol Police.
J. Scott Applewhite
Tom Manger, a veteran police chief of departments in the Washington, D.C., region, is seen Friday as he takes over the United States Capitol Police.

The new chief of the U.S. Capitol Police on Friday defended the beleaguered agency, saying that the Jan. 6 Capitol insurrection should not define the department and that necessary changes to its procedures have been made in the months since.

"I know how good this U.S. Capitol Police Department is. I know the kind of work that these men and women have done over the years," Tom Manger, who has four decades of experience in law enforcement and who started in his new role on Friday, said in an interview with NPR.

"It has been frustrating for me, as well as the men and women in this department, that people have, I guess, have defined them by one day," he continued. "It's not fair, and it's certainly not accurate. This is a great police department. And yes, Jan. 6 demonstrated that there were some things that needed to be done that would make this police department better, and those recommendations have been taken to heart."

The force has faced some withering criticisms for its response to the deadly Capitol melee, when riotous supporters of Donald Trump, egged on by the then-president himself, descended on the complex. They were seeking to delay or halt the certification of President Biden's victory in the 2020 White House race.

Numerous officers were injured in the riot, and two who responded to the attack have since died by suicide. Other police officers' restrained, if at times inviting, response to the rioters has been the subject of public debate and has come under scrutiny of Congress.

Agency leadership has also come under fire from its own officers with the department union issuing an overwhelming no-confidence vote for the force's top leaders.

The previous chief, Steven Sund, resigned shortly after the insurrection. Manger replaces Yogananda Pittman, who has been the department's acting chief.

"All of us want to make sure that when, you know, if we're in a crisis that folks have the ability to react to that crisis, to get the help that they need as quickly as possible," Manger said. "So that discussion is ongoing. And I do think that everybody recognizes that we need to be able to react more quickly when things really go bad.

"We are making improvements where we need to. But the one thing that's consistent is the quality of the men and women who wear this uniform and do this job."

Manger aims to boost transparency for the department, along with its resources and officer morale. He also faces additional challenges, including increasing lawmaker security and trying to tackle a threat of running out of money next month.

Manger came out of retirement to helm the Capitol department. He previously led the forces in Fairfax and Montgomery counties, just outside of Washington, D.C.

The Capitol role is his first job leading a federal police agency. He says that while it's not like his previous gigs as a chief where he juggled murder and robbery concerns, there's one similar mission.

"I may not have to be dealing with those kinds of issues, but I'll tell you, what's the same is we're serving the public, we're trying to keep the public safe, and making sure that you have a police department that is out there, well-intended, in terms of their service to the public. That is a universal concept."

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Claudia Grisales is a congressional reporter assigned to NPR's Washington Desk.
Alana Wise
Alana Wise is a politics reporter on the Washington desk at NPR.
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.