Capitol Police failed the Pelosis
This appeared in the Washington Post
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) is subject to more death threats than any other member of Congress. That, and being second in line to the presidency, means she gets extraordinary protection. She has an around-the-clock security detail. Security cameras installed eight years ago at her San Francisco home are actively monitored while she is there. And in the unsettling months that followed the Jan. 6, 2021, U.S. Capitol insurrection, a San Francisco police cruiser was stationed outside her home night and day. But in the wake of last week's vicious assault of her 82-year-old husband, doubts have been raised about whether the U.S. Capitol Police are up to the task of protecting not only the speaker but also other lawmakers and their families.
There was clearly a lapse during the break-in last Friday at the Pelosi home. As The Post reported, no one at the command center in D.C. was watching as the agency's own cameras captured footage of a man with a hammer smashing a glass panel and entering the home. Only after someone noticed the flashing lights of police cruisers on the darkened street did Capitol Police realize there had been a breach. Paul Pelosi, who managed to summon San Francisco police by making a surreptitious 911 call to an astute dispatch operator, was assaulted - knocked unconscious - by the intruder as police arrived on the scene. He remains hospitalized. His assailant has been charged with attempted murder and other charges in what authorities have called a politically motivated attack.
Why have cameras if no one is monitoring them? In a statement, the Capitol Police said the agency has roughly 1,800 cameras in place. As security experts attested, it is both impossible and impractical to expect 24/7 monitoring, particularly considering the agency has 1,900 officers who are already spread thin with protecting the U.S. Capitol and its 535 members at a time of greatly increased threats against lawmakers.
The attack on Mr. Pelosi highlighted that it is not just lawmakers but also their loved ones who are at risk. That demands new strategies, which means additional resources. "Today's political climate calls for more resources to provide additional layers of physical security for Members of Congress," said Capitol Police Chief Tom Manger in a statement. Just as Congress acted to fortify protections for the families of Supreme Court justices after an aborted murder attempt on Justice Brett Kavanaugh, so must it act to protect the families of members of Congress. Capitol Police have launched an internal security review to determine what other steps should be taken.
But responsibility for protecting the nation's lawmakers shouldn't rest solely on the shoulders of Capitol Police; others have a role to play. Prosecutors need to be more aggressive in pursuing cases against those who threaten lawmakers. According to Chief Manger, in the past five years, roughly only 12 percent of cases in which people were identified as making threats were prosecuted. But those are interventions after the fact. Most effective of all would be lowering the temperature of personalized political rhetoric - in Ms. Pelosi's case, more than a decade of demonization by Republicans - that helps foster such hatred.