Why a Capitol Police Tactical Unit Left the Navy Yard Shooting Scene

People exit a building with their hands above their heads as police respond to the report of a shooting at the Navy Yard in Washington, DC, September 16, 2013. A shooting rampage Monday at a US naval base in the heart of Washington claimed at least 12 lives, including the unidentified gunman, while another possible suspect was still at large, police said. The shooting sparked a massive show of force as police and federal agents surrounded the Navy Yard, cordoning off streets only blocks from the US Capitol, home of Congress. US officials gave no indication of any link to terrorism while police said the motive for the attack on the naval installation was unknown. 'At this hour, it appears that we have at least 12 fatalities,' Washington DC police chief Cathy Lanier told a press conference. AFP PHOTO / Saul LOEB (Photo credit should read SAUL LOEB/AFP/Getty Images)
National Journal
Billy House
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Billy House
Nov. 8, 2013, 11:07 a.m.

Un­cer­tainty over wheth­er there were also threats to the U.S. Cap­it­ol led to the re­call of a spe­cially trained tac­tic­al Cap­it­ol Po­lice unit from the scene of the nearby Wash­ing­ton Navy Yard shoot­ing ram­page, a new fact-find­ing re­port states.

A sum­mary of the re­port re­leased Fri­day states that Cap­it­ol Po­lice of­ficers did “self-de­ploy” to the Navy Yard area on Sept. 16, about a mile away from the Cap­it­ol com­plex, but that the tac­tic­al team had trouble get­ting there be­cause of traffic. Then, the four mem­bers of the Con­tain­ment and Emer­gency Re­sponse Team were ordered to re­turn to the Cap­it­ol “over 30 minutes after the first re­ports of the at­tack.”

The re­port comes in the af­ter­math of re­ports in the days fol­low­ing the Navy Yard in­cid­ent that have ques­tioned the Cap­it­ol Po­lice lead­er­ship’s de­cision to or­der the emer­gency re­sponse team mem­bers to stand down. In the in­cid­ent, 12 people were even­tu­ally killed by a gun­man, Aaron Alex­is, a former Navy re­serv­ist and gov­ern­ment con­tract­or, who was him­self killed in a po­lice shootout.

After those ques­tions were raised, the U.S. Cap­it­ol Po­lice Board at the re­quest of Chief Kim Dine com­menced a re­view of the Cap­it­ol Po­lice re­sponse to the in­cid­ent.

The full re­port and re­com­mend­a­tions were de­scribed Fri­day in a short­er sum­mary as “law en­force­ment sens­it­ive” and there­fore were not pub­licly avail­able.

But the sum­mary says the ma­jor fo­cus of the fact re­view — led by As­sist­ant Sen­ate Ser­geant at Arms Mi­chael Stenger, a former as­sist­ant dir­ect­or of in­vest­ig­a­tions for the Secret Ser­vice — were the ac­tions that day of the emer­gency re­sponse team.

The re­view team is de­scribed as hav­ing in­ter­viewed dozens of Cap­it­ol Po­lice per­son­nel and oth­ers, re­viewed writ­ten re­ports, ra­dio trans­mis­sions, and com­mand-cen­ter in­cid­ent logs.

“The re­view team chron­icled with­in the scope of their re­view what is now re­cog­nized as a fast”“mov­ing, dy­nam­ic act­ive shoot­er in­cid­ent. Ini­tial re­ports of the ac­tions of [Cap­it­ol Po­lice] per­son­nel were in­ac­cur­ate and failed to con­vey the nu­anced com­plex­ity of such situ­ations in­clud­ing the per­son­al and pro­fes­sion­al im­pact on po­ten­tial first re­spon­ders,” the sum­mary re­port states.

Ac­cord­ing to the re­port, Cap­it­ol Po­lice per­son­nel did ini­tially “self-de­ploy” to the Navy Yard area.

Those in­cluded two mo­tor­cycle units that as­sisted in traffic con­trol on M Street SE. In ad­di­tion, a field ser­geant was de­ployed to the des­ig­nated po­lice com­mand cen­ter at the Navy Yard in or­der to serve as the Cap­it­ol Po­lice li­ais­on. And a third field unit was de­ployed to the south­w­est corner of the Navy Yard, where he as­sisted in provid­ing peri­met­er se­cur­ity.

In ad­di­tion, the four-per­son emer­gency re­sponse unit re­spon­ded to the vi­cin­ity of 11th and M Streets SE.

“Sub­sequently they were dir­ec­ted to the Navy Yard in­cid­ent com­mand post, but in­struc­ted not to enter the Navy Yard,” the sum­mary states. Then, “be­cause of traffic grid­lock caused by both emer­gency vehicles and com­muter traffic the CERT unit was un­able to reach that in­cid­ent com­mand post.

“The [emer­gency re­sponse] unit then moved closer to the Cap­it­ol, in­creas­ing its flex­ib­il­ity to re­spond as needed at either the Cap­it­ol or the Navy Yard,” the sum­mary re­port states.

“Based on the com­bin­a­tion of in­form­a­tion avail­able to [Cap­it­ol Po­lice] com­mand per­son­nel con­cern­ing the at­tack in the Navy Yard, the un­cer­tainty about threats to the U.S. Cap­it­ol and ab­sent a re­quest for ad­di­tion­al Cap­it­ol Po­lice as­sets,” says the sum­mary, “the [emer­gency re­sponse] unit was re­called to the Cap­it­ol over thirty minutes after the first re­ports of the at­tack.”

The fact re­view team made sev­er­al re­com­mend­a­tions, which will en­hance op­por­tun­it­ies for the Cap­it­ol Po­lice “to im­prove com­mand and con­trol of per­son­nel, in­tern­al com­mu­nic­a­tions, mu­tu­al aid par­ti­cip­a­tion, and after ac­tion de­brief­ings.”

It then states, “the Mem­bers of the [Cap­it­ol Po­lice] have every con­fid­ence in Chief Dine, the abil­it­ies and ded­ic­a­tion of the men and wo­man of the Cap­it­ol Po­lice, and the unique qual­i­fic­a­tions of spe­cialty units such as the emer­gency re­sponse team.”

Dine was de­scribed as hav­ing re­viewed the re­port and con­curred in its re­com­mend­a­tions.

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