WASHINGTON (AP), -- One year after Jan. 6's insurrection, U.S. Capitol Police officers face increasingly heated and unfounded allegations from House Republicans about whether the officers of the department are acting as politically motivated spies. This rhetoric is causing problems for the force's efforts to regain public confidence.
On Tuesday, Rep. Troy Nehls, a Texas Representative, accused the Capitol Police having "illegally” investigated his Texas office in November. Both Nehls as well as the police agree that the incident in question did not violate any laws.
While the attention has been focused on the House Speaker Nancy Pelosi's claims that Nancy Pelosi is "using the U.S. Capitol Police" to investigate him and intimidate him, Nehls stated in a Fox News interview that he was a Democrat. The U.S. Capitol Police is undergoing a quieter process of reform to address its operational and intelligence problems. The department is acquiring more data and changing the processes of sharing and responding to information about threats.
Some Republicans attacked both the attempts to look back at the insurrection as well as the measures taken by the Capitol Police to prevent a future attack.
In an interview with The Associated Press, U.S. Capitol Police Chief Tom Manger stated that "Frankly, my experience as a chief of police has been over 21 years" "I feel like the U.S. Capitol Police men and women are being drawn into partisan disputes, and that's unfair for them and it's unfair for this department."
Manger vehemently denied that his officers had spyed on Nehls (a former sheriff in Fort Bend County, suburban Houston). Manger stated that promoting this unfounded theory could increase the risk for his officers.
Manger stated that "people portray these officers in an untrue, not fair, it undermines confidence that the public have in my officers as well." "And that is an insult to the men, women and departments."
On Nov. 20, a Capitol officer was patrolling the Longworth House Office Building's halls. He noticed that Nehls office door was open. He entered the office to inspect for intruders. Although he found no intrusion, the officer noticed a whiteboard with a map of Rayburn's neighboring Rayburn building marked with an "X". Notes about body armor were also found on the whiteboard.
Officer took a photograph of the whiteboard, and then filed a report. It noted "suspicious writings that mention body armor." The officers returned to Nehls' offices two days later and talked to their staff about the whiteboard. The case was closed.
Manger stated that there was no investigation into any staff member or member of Congress. "I called the congressman on the next day and told him, "Here's the story. Your staff and you were not under investigation at any time. "We were simply checking to make sure nobody got into your office and caused any damage."
Nehls said Tuesday to the AP that a staffer had drawn a map to show an intern in Rayburn where the ice machine was located. The machine in Longworth was not working. His office was also working on legislation to obtain body armor for law enforcement.
Nehls acknowledged that the officer was legally allowed to enter his office in order to ensure no one was there who shouldn’t be. He stated, "I have clearly told Chief Manger: I've never challenged the officers' legal authority"
Nehls argued that the officer shouldn't have seen his whiteboard, and challenged Manger for the photo.
Nehls posted on Twitter that "they had no authority to photograph me office, let alone inspect myself or my staff."
The Capitol Police, like many large-city police departments in big cities, balances its law enforcement activities with the demands of elected officials. Some officers feel that both Democrats and Republicans have resisted requests for more equipment, training, and security measures. Steven Sund, the former Capitol Police chief, claimed that Paul Irving, a former House Sergeant at-Arms, was worried about "optics" in calling the National Guard before Jan. 6. Irving claimed that Sund's account is "categorically false".
The Capitol Police acknowledged that they failed to respond to clear warnings from former President Donald Trump's supporters that far-right groups and extremists would gather at the Capitol. While lawmakers inside declared his loss, they also certified that he was not dead. The officers could not stop the thousands of people who stormed the building and broke through police lines.
On Jan. 6, more than 100 officers of the police were hurt. One officer was attacked and shocked repeatedly with a stun gun, until he suffered a heart attack. Another officer was crushed between two doors by rioters and hit in the head with his weapon. Biden's victory was delayed by the riot for many hours.
A Capitol Police officer has been killed in an attack on his vehicle by a man. Officers have also dealt with numerous high-profile threats including one man who pulled up outside of the Capitol and claimed he had a bomb. This led to evacuations and a long standoff.
The threat to the building and lawmakers has also increased. Capitol Police received around 9,600 threats against Congressmen last year. There were less than 4,000 threats in 2017.
Some Republicans have criticised the use of open-source information on the internet by the department to screen for potential threats at events held by members of Congress. Some even accused the police force "spying on" them.
According to the department, officers use public information and social media profiles to determine whether an event or meeting is potentially dangerous or a danger. Major law enforcement agencies routinely use open-source information to research.
The Capitol Police claims it doesn't conduct background checks on individuals or conduct investigations into legislators. This is except for major events such as the State of the Union speech, or when a congressional office requests this information.
"We are not spying on people. We are not spying on staff members. Manger stated that we are not spying on staff. "We are not conducting background checks on the people they meet with. None of this is happening."