Robert J. Contee, the acting Chief of the Metropolitan Police Department, told Congress on Tuesday that his officers weren’t allowed to enter the U.S. Capitol as rioters breached the building Jan. 6 and that he was surprised the National Guard wasn’t called in sooner.
Contee spoke during joint hearing in Senate chambers about the security and law-enforcement preparation before the siege and the response to the deadly riot. (A police officer died from an injury sustained in the incident. A rioter was fatally shot, and three other officers later took their own life.)
“First, MPD is prohibited by federal law from entering the Capitol or its grounds to patrol, make arrests, or serve warrants without the consent or request from the Capitol police board,” Contee told the congressional lawmakers.
He also said the the mayor of Washington, D.C., does not have control over the National Guard and that President Trump was the one who had the power to send the Guard members to help secure the federal property. The mayor can only issue the Guard to the District of Columbia.
“I was surprised at the reluctance to immediately send the National Guard to the Capitol,” said Contee, recalling his thoughts after a call with the leadership of U.S. Capitol Police, the Guard, U.S. Army, and others at 2:22 p.m. during the riots.
Contee said that additional officers were requested, some from as far away as New Jersey.
He also said it took another three and a half hours for all rioters to be removed from the Capitol.
Former Capitol Police Chief, Steven Sund confirmed MPD’s inability to call in the Guard at the hearing, saying, “I cannot request the National Guard without a declaration of emergency from the Capitol Police Board.”