News and Music Discovery
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00 0:00
Available On Air Stations

Former Capitol Police Chief On Why The U.S. Capitol Has Been Breached


Both chambers of Congress are back in session after several hours delay because pro-Trump insurrectionists breached the Capitol building. Well, just how this happened, how one of the most secure buildings there is could be breached, will be examined and pored over for months to come, possibly longer. Earlier, I spoke with Terry Gainer. He was chief of the Capitol Police from 2002 to 2006 and then the Senate sergeant-at-arms from 2007 till 2014. I started by asking, how was a mob able to penetrate the U.S. Capitol?

TERRY GAINER: Well, there are some failures we're going to have to figure out, Mary Louise. And, you know, I was up there for nearly 10 years in those two positions, so we've done a lot of things to try to make it secure. We've made suggestions from a security point of view that have been rejected. But all that notwithstanding, they breached the Capitol. And I wouldn't have bet a million dollars that that would have been easily done or so easily done, so I had to definitely suspend my disbelief. And the protesters were on the Senate and House floor doing what they were doing, that they were attacking the police officers in there. But I was pleased that the police officers, both inside and outside the building of the Capitol Police, did one of their primary jobs, and that is to protect the leadership, the members and the staff notwithstanding how scary it was for everybody. We never like to see property damage, but that's secondary to the main job of protecting people. But that having been said, I feel like we security types have failed somehow to let this get this way. And the darn president of the United States did not help any of us by inciting people as he did.

KELLY: Were you watching along, listening along with the rest of us as events transpired today?

GAINER: I sure was, trying to move, frankly, between the channels and reaching out and not interfering with both the contacts and the people you know because like I say, I lived and breathed that, as many have, of the security there. The House and Senate sergeant-of-arms are personal friends. They're both dignified, superior, former assistant directors of the Secret Service. The chief of the Capitol Police is a great guy who has a good staff. He once worked for me as my chief of staff when I was in MPD, so I'm confident in them as I will be confident in how we're going to have to dissect what went wrong.

KELLY: Talk to me about the training that Capitol Police get. Nobody could have anticipated quite how things spiraled out of control today, but how is it supposed to work?

GAINER: Well, they're full law enforcement - federal law enforcement officers, and they're trained at the federal law enforcement training center in Quantico. And they go through about a six-month training there. Then they come back and go to a training facility in Maryland. And they are - do training - regular training on a weekly and daily basis, depending on the rotation it is. So they are well-versed in their duties. And I think - I don't think individual officers or sergeants weren't doing what they were supposed to do. But somehow, clearly, we lost control of the steps and the areas around the exterior of the Capitol where the skin of the Capitol can be a bit more vulnerable because we don't anticipate that vigilantes and riotous people are up there that close.

KELLY: Just before I let you go, I know you don't want to throw any colleagues, former colleagues under the bus. But as you were speaking to people, as you have watched events play out, are you able to put your finger on any identifiable security lapses, things that should have been done and maybe weren't or at least that you have questions about?

GAINER: Well, the would-have-should-have-could-have is pretty easy. In retrospect, the fence should have been up. In retrospect, there should have been more officers brought in. But again, I do respect them as I've been second-guessed enough times - that they thought they had this under control. I think I'm not trying to throw all the blame, but there is a certain responsibility that the president of the United States had inciting these people to be so angry and hateful not only what he said today, not only what he tweeted today but what he's been doing since he lost this election. So it's hard to control people who are so hateful and so hurtful.

KELLY: All right, a lot of questions that we will be looking for answers to as we try to...

GAINER: There will be.

KELLY: ...Investigate exactly what happened here.

GAINER: Yup, yup.

KELLY: Mr. Gainer, thank you for your time.

GAINER: Thank you.

KELLY: That was Terry Gainer, former chief of the Capitol Police and former Senate sergeant-at-arms. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.