Category: Sirennet Blog

Pilot pulled free from crashed plane by police in Los Angeles seconds before it is hit by train

From Sky News

A man has been saved from near-death by police officers in Los Angeles after he crash-landed his plane onto railway tracks seconds before it was hit by a train.

The unnamed pilot was saved from the Cessna by quick-thinking officers who pulled him out just before a high-speed train smashed into the aircraft, sending debris flying everywhere.

The incident happened on Sunday, near to the Los Angeles Police Department’s station in Foothill on Osborne Street, near Whiteman Airport.

Dramatic video obtained by Reuters news agency shows several officers freeing the man from the downed plane, which had crashed shortly after take off in the Pacoima neighbourhood, according to local media.

In it, the police officers and pilot are just a few feet away from the tracks when the passing train destroys the plane.Advertisement

“The plane had a failed take off and landed on the train tracks at a popular intersection,” said Luis Jimenez, a 21-year-old music composer who filmed the video.

“Just seconds before impact police officers saved the pilot, and a piece of debris almost hit me.”

Separate video footage posted on Twitter by the LAPD showed bodycam footage of officers pulling the bleeding pilot from the plane.

The pilot was the sole passenger on the plane and first responders were called at around 2pm.

According to the LAPD’s Valley Bureau, the plane had lost power and crashed into the tracks.

The department applauded its officers, saying in the tweet they had “displayed heroism and quick action by saving the life of a pilot who made an emergency landing on the railroad tracks”.

The pilot was treated for cuts and bruises and is in a stable condition, according to local media.

No one on the train was injured.

Croatia police present drug seizures in Adriatic Sea port

From the Associated Press

ZAGREB, Croatia (AP) — Croatian police on Tuesday displayed hundreds of pounds of drugs they say were seized in two separate operations last year in a southern Adriatic Sea port close to the famous resort of Dubrovnik.

The discovery last October in the port of Ploce of nearly 220 kilograms (482 pounds) of heroin was the biggest ever in Croatia, police said.

’We conducted a search of a container on board a ship that came to port of Ploce from Iraq,” Dubrovnik police criminal investigator Zoran Tikvica said. “Inside the container we found 80 boxes made of lead, weight of about 300 kilograms, and within 40 of these lead boxes we found 296 packages (of heroin.)

The heroin was meant for distribution in Western Europe, police said in a statement.

In November, divers found 61 kilograms (136 pounds) of cocaine in a metal container attached with magnets to the bottom of another ship from South America.

“In both of these operations, when we seized heroin, and when we seized cocaine, it was determined that the drugs were of extremely high quality and pure,” Tikvica said.

Police said the total estimated value of the seized drugs was 17 million euros ($19 million.)

Justice Dept. creating unit focused on domestic terrorism

By ERIC TUCKER for the Associated Press

WASHINGTON (AP) — The Justice Department is establishing a specialized unit focused on domestic terrorism, the department’s top national security official told lawmakers Tuesday as he described an “elevated” threat from violent extremists in the United States.

Assistant Attorney General for National Security Division Matthew Olsen, seen from a video monitor, testifies remotely before a Senate Judiciary Committee during a virtual hearing to examine the domestic terrorism threat one year after January 6, on Capitol Hill, Thursday, Feb. 10, 2022, in Washington. (AP Photo/Manuel Balce Ceneta)

Assistant Attorney General Matthew Olsen, testifying just days after the nation observed the one-year anniversary of the violent insurrection at the U.S. Capitol, said the number of FBI investigations into suspected domestic violent extremists has more than doubled since the spring of 2020.

“We have seen a growing threat from those who are motivated by racial animus, as well as those who ascribe to extremist anti-government and anti-authority ideologies,” Olsen said.

Olsen’s assessment tracked with a warning last March from FBI Director Christopher Wray, who testified that the threat was “metastasizing.” Jill Sanborn, the executive assistant director in charge of the FBI’s national security branch who testified alongside Olsen, said Tuesday the greatest threat comes from lone extremists who radicalize online and look to carry out violence at so-called “soft targets.”

The department’s National Security Division, which Olsen leads, has a counterterrorism section. But Olsen told the Senate Judiciary Committee that he has decided to create a specialized domestic terrorism unit “to augment our existing approach” and to “ensure that these cases are properly handled and effectively coordinated” across the country.

The formulation of a new unit underscores the extent to which domestic violence extremism, which for years after the Sept. 11 attacks was overshadowed by the threat of international terrorism, has attracted urgent attention inside the federal government.

But the issue remains politically freighted, in part because the absence of a federal domestic terrorism statute has created ambiguities as to precisely what sort of violence meets that definition.

Several Republican senators, for instance, suggested Tuesday that the FBI and the Justice Department had given more attention to the Jan. 6 insurrection than to the 2020 rioting that erupted in American cities and grew out of racial justice protests.

Republican Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas accused the department of “wildly disparate” treatment. Sen. Chuck Grassley of Iowa, the Senate’s top Republican, played video clips of the 2020 violence as a counter to the video of the Jan. 6 Capitol rioting played by Democratic Sen. Richard Durbin, the committee’s chairman.

The officials said the department treats domestic extremist violence the same regardless of ideology.


Romania tightens pandemic measures amid COVID-19 surge

By STEPHEN McGRATH for the Associated Press

BUCHAREST, Romania (AP) — Tighter pandemic measures came into force in Romania on Saturday as authorities hoped to quell sharply rising coronavirus cases amid concerns that the next virus wave could overstretch the country’s health care system.

FILE – People watch from a passing bus health workers protesting outside the government building in Bucharest, Romania, Tuesday, Dec. 28, 2021. Tighter pandemic measures have come into force in Romania as authorities hope to quell sharply rising coronavirus cases amid concerns that the next virus wave could overstretch the country’s health care system. (AP Photo/Vadim Ghirda. File)

In mid-December, Romania was reporting fewer than a thousand COVID-19 infections a day, but over the past week, daily cases have surged to around 6,000. It is the highest number of infections since early November when cases were on the decline following a vicious fourth virus wave.

Over the winter holiday period, hundreds of thousands of Romanians return home from other countries, many from the West, which fueled concerns over the threat of the fast-spreading omicron variant. Romania has so far confirmed almost 300 cases of the new variant.

Health minister Alexandru Rafila said in a press briefing Friday that Romania is “already in the fifth wave of the pandemic” and that omicron is expected to soon become the dominant virus strain.ADVERTISEMENT

“For the time being, there is a sporadic transmission (of omicron),” he said. “But it is very possible that in the coming days, the coming weeks, we will witness a community transmission supported by this new strain.”

The new measures Saturday include the mandatory wearing of face masks in outdoor and indoor public spaces, and textile masks have been banned. Non-compliance with mask rules could result in hefty fines of up to 500 euros ($567), authorities said.

Bars and restaurants can stay open until 10 p.m. and operate at 50% or 30% capacity depending on the area’s infection rate, and COVID-19 passes are required. The same goes for sporting events, gyms, and cinemas. Meanwhile, quarantine and isolation periods have been reduced.

Octavian Jurma, a physician and health care statistician, said the new pandemic measures are “mostly cosmetic” and compared them to “giving aspirin to a cancer patient.”

“These measures were never meant to limit the pandemic, but to create an illusion they are doing something more than in the delta wave,” Jurma told The Associated Press. “We have a perfect storm lined up in Romania … we will again see record numbers of hospitalizations, ICU admissions, and deaths.”

Through October and November, Romania recorded pandemic highs of COVID-19 infections and deaths, and at one time had the highest mortality rate globally. The situation crippled the country’s aging health care system.

Romania, a European Union country of around 19.5 million, is the bloc’s second-lowest vaccinated nation against COVID-19, with just 40% fully vaccinated. Experts blame widespread disinformation, a strong distrust of government authorities and an ineffective national campaign among reasons for vaccine hesitancy.

“I am not sure the pandemic is manageable in Romania anymore since the negationists have clearly won the ‘hearts and minds’ war,” Jurma said.


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Coast Guard announces safety rules after deadly boat fire

By STEFANIE DAZIO and BRIAN MELLEY for the Associated Press

LOS ANGELES (AP) — The Coast Guard has announced new safety rules following a deadly blaze that killed 34 people on a scuba diving boat off the California coast more than two years ago, including installation of fire detection and suppression equipment.

FILE – In this Sept. 2, 2019, file photo, provided by the Ventura County Fire Department, VCFD firefighters respond to a fire aboard the Conception dive boat fire in the Santa Barbara Channel off the coast of Southern California. The Coast Guard has announced several new safety rules following the deadly blaze that sent dozens of people on a scuba diving boat to a watery grave off the California coast more than two years ago. (Ventura County Fire Department via AP, File)

The Labor Day 2019 fire aboard the Conception off Santa Barbara marked the deadliest marine disaster in modern state history and led to criminal charges and calls for tougher regulations for small passenger vessels.

The new interim rules will take effect over the next two years. In addition to the fire systems, owners of boats with overnight passengers will be required, among other things, to provide better escapes from below deck and use devices that make sure a night watchman is alert and making frequent rounds.

An investigation into the disaster blamed the Conception’s owners for a lack of oversight and the boat’s captain for failing to post a roving watchman aboard the vessel, which allowed the fire to quickly spread and trap the 33 passengers and one crew member below deck. Captain Jerry Boylan and four crew members, all of whom were sleeping above deck, escaped.ADVERTISEMENT

Boylan has pleaded not guilty to 34 counts of seaman’s manslaughter. He is free on bond awaiting trial in U.S. District Court in Los Angeles.

The new rules were expected after Congress mandated in December 2020 that the Coast Guard review its regulations for small passenger vessels. The law, included in the National Defense Authorization Act, also added new requirements regarding fire detection and suppression.

The new rules apply to small passenger vessels with sleeping quarters or operating on oceans or coastal routes, but excludes fishing boats and ferries.

The National Transportation Safety Board recommended in its investigation that the Coast Guard require boat owners to install more comprehensive smoke detector systems, upgrade emergency exits and make mandatory inspection checks on roving watches.

Since 1991, no owner, operator or charterer has been issued a citation or fine for failure to post a roving patrol, prompting the NTSB to fault the Coast Guard for not enforcing that requirement and recommend it develop a program to ensure boats with overnight passengers actually have watchmen.

The rules would also require boats to have at least two exits so if one is unavailable there is another way to escape. The exits must be clear and both cannot be directly above a berth.

The Conception bunkroom had an open stairwell toward the bow and a small escape hatch that was difficult to access and climb through above one of the bunks in the center of the boat. However, both led to the galley, which was in flames.

Family members of those who died have filed wrongful death lawsuits against the boat company, Truth Aquatics Inc., and the family that owned it. They have also sued the Coast Guard for lax enforcement that they say doomed the people below deck.

The families said the fire detection and suppression systems were out of compliance, and the two escapes from the bunkroom violated Coast Guard regulations because they led to the same place.

The boat had passed its two most recent Coast Guard safety inspections.

The Coast Guard has declined to comment on the lawsuit because of a policy not to discuss pending litigation.

The rules published late last month in the Federal Register begin taking effect March 28 and could be changed after a public comment period that ends in June.

Other new requirements include better training of crew, escape drills for passengers and guidance on how to handle flammable items such as rechargeable batteries.

While investigators said they couldn’t determine what caused the fire because the boat burned and sank, they say the blaze started toward the back of the main deck salon — where divers had plugged in phones, flashlights and other items with combustible lithium ion batteries.

After the fire, the Coast Guard issued a bulletin recommending a limit on the unsupervised onboard use of lithium ion batteries and extensive use of power strips and extension cords.


Associated Press journalist Janet McConnaughey contributed from New Orleans.

Marine officer blames bad information for sinking tragedy

By JULIE WATSON for the Associated Press

CAMP PENDLETON, Calif. (AP) — A Marine Corps battalion commander testified Friday that in retrospect he would have halted the exercise that killed nine of his Marines whose amphibious assault vehicle sank off the Southern California coast but at the time he did not have accurate information to make such a decision.

FILE – In this July 31, 2020, file photo, the U.S. flag is seen lowered to half-staff at Park Semper Fi in San Clemente, Calif., after a seafaring assault vehicle sank off the coast of Southern California. A Marine Corps panel convenes Tuesday, Jan. 4, 2022, to decide if an officer should be discharged over the sinking of the amphibious assault vehicle that killed nine service members. (Paul Bersebach/The Orange County Register via AP, File)

Lt. Col. Michael J. Regner said his decisions were based in part on what other commanders told him, including that all the Marines had completed their swim certifications and that the aging vehicles they were in had been fixed and were ready for the mission.

He said he was also unaware that the Navy had changed plans that day and did not launch a safety boat.

“Had I known that at the time, I would have said ‘No we’re not going to go into the ocean without a safety boat,’” Regner said.

Regner gave his account to a three-officer panel at a Board of Inquiry. That panel will issue a recommendation to the commanding general of Regner’s unit as to whether the decorated officer, who served in Iraq and Afghanistan, should be considered for discharge just shy of his 20-year mark and be denied retirement benefits.

However, a decision isn’t expected until later this month and will follow Boards of Inquiry pending for other officers, including one scheduled for next Tuesday.

A Marine Corps investigation found that inadequate training, shabby maintenance and poor judgment by leaders led to the July 30, 2020, sinking of the amphibious assault vehicle in one of the deadliest Marine training accidents in decades.

The vehicle — a kind of seafaring tank — had 16 people aboard when it sank rapidly in 385 feet (117 meters) of water off the coast of San Clemente Island. Seven Marines were rescued as the vessel was returning to a Navy ship on a training exercise.

Regner was relieved of command of the landing team of the 1st Battalion, 4th Marine Regiment, 15th Marine Expeditionary Unit, shortly after the sinking. A Marine Corps statement at the time said his removal was based on a “substantial amount of information and data” and cited a loss of trust.

The government argued at Friday’s hearing that while Regner is not the only one to blame for the tragedy, his “substandard” leadership set the groundwork for things to go as badly as they did.

Lt. Col. Michael McDonald said in the military’s closing statement that Regner decided to risk sending his Marines who were inexperienced and had not completed their training, including how to escape the vehicles, into the ocean.

“That was just an absolute comedy of errors,” McDonald said. “This didn’t come out of the blue.”

Regner’s attorney said the panel’s task is to determine if Regner is of value to the Marine Corps and has potential for future service, which he argued his client clearly has demonstrated.

“He’s never shirked his responsibilities,” said Maj. Cory Carver, Regner’s attorney.ADVERTISEMENT

Regner became emotional when he talked about how he has served his country his “entire adulthood,” becoming a Marine as the United States went to war following the Sept. 11, 2001, terror attacks.

He said he has excelled throughout his career, including in the last 18 months after he was relieved from his command and assigned to another job.

“Hell I grew up in this,” Regner said, wiping a tear. “My dad was a Marine. I was raised by the Marine Corps.”

Regner said he was aware that 12 of the 13 amphibious assault vehicles his Marines would be using in the training had problems but that a fellow battalion commander who overseas the vehicles assured him they would be fixed before the exercise.

He said he tried to get his Marines extra training in the water and warned senior leaders that his troops had never done this type of exercise.

He said he was constrained by a number of factors including the fact that Marines had to squeeze in their preparations after being deployed to the U.S-Mexico border under the Trump administration, and then they faced restrictions due to the coronavirus pandemic that interrupted their training.

But he said he was led to believe by a company commander that all had been certified as swimmers, though two of the troops had not.

Other Marines are expected to face possible discharge. Col. Christopher J. Bronzi, who supervised Regner, was relieved of command of the 15th Marine Expeditionary Unit last year.

The panel was expected to review 6,000 pages of investigative reports and evidence before making its decision.

The Marines use the vehicles to transport troops and their equipment from Navy ships to land. The armored vehicles outfitted with machine guns and grenade launchers look like tanks as they roll ashore for beach attacks, with Marines pouring out of them to take up positions.

Dogs to visit 3 school districts to sniff out COVID-19

From the Associated Press

BOSTON (AP) — Two dogs trained to detect an odor distinct to people who are sick with COVID-19 will visit three school districts in Bristol County this week.

A black Labrador named Huntah and a golden Lab called Duke can detect the smell of the virus on surfaces and will sit to indicate when they pick up the scent.

The dogs will visit schools in the Freetown, Lakeville and Norton school districts, WBZ-TV reported Tuesday.

“With COVID, whether it’s the omicron, whether it’s the delta, our dogs will hit on it,” said Bristol County Capt. Paul Douglas. “And if there’s a new variant that comes out in six months, hopefully there isn’t, but if there is one, COVID is COVID.”

Fairhaven School Superintendent Tara Kohler welcomed the dogs saying their presence shows students, “we are doing everything we can to mitigate the risk and I want them to feel secure and safe and not anxious about their surroundings.”

The dogs were trained using a detection program developed by Florida International University’s International Forensic Research Institute. WBZ-TV first reported on the Bristol County’s use of the detection dogs in July.

US urges COVID boosters starting at age 12 to fight omicron

By LAURAN NEERGAARD and MIKE STOBBE for the Associated Press

The U.S. is urging that everyone 12 and older get a COVID-19 booster as soon as they’re eligible, to help fight back the hugely contagious omicron mutant that’s ripping through the country.

FILE – A doctor loads a dose of Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine into a syringe, Thursday, Dec. 2, 2021, at a mobile vaccination clinic in Worcester, Mass. In January 2022, an influential government advisory panel is considering COVID-19 boosters for younger teens, as the U.S. battles the omicron surge and schools struggle with how to restart classes amid the spike. (AP Photo/Steven Senne, File)

Boosters already were encouraged for all Americans 16 and older, but Wednesday the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention endorsed an extra Pfizer shot for younger teens — those 12 to 15 — and strengthened its recommendation that 16- and 17-year-olds get it, too.

“It is critical that we protect our children and teens from COVID-19 infection and the complications of severe disease,” Dr. Rochelle Walensky, the CDC’s director, said in a statement Wednesday night.

“This booster dose will provide optimized protection against COVID-19 and the Omicron variant. I encourage all parents to keep their children up to date with CDC’s COVID-19 vaccine recommendations,” she said.

Vaccines still offer strong protection against serious illness from any type of COVID-19, including omicron — what experts say is their most important benefit. But the newest mutant can slip past a layer of the vaccines’ protection to cause milder infections. Studies show a booster dose at least temporarily revs up virus-fighting antibodies to levels that offer the best chance at avoiding symptomatic infection, even from omicron.

Earlier Wednesday, the CDC’s independent scientific advisers wrestled with whether a booster should be an option for younger teens, who tend not to get as sick from COVID-19 as adults, or more strongly recommended.

Giving teens a booster for a temporary jump in protection against infections is like playing whack-a-mole, cautioned CDC adviser Dr. Sarah Long of Drexel University. But she said the extra shot was worth it to help push back the omicron mutant and shield kids from the missed school and other problems that come with even a very mild case of COVID-19.

More important, if a child with a mild infection spreads it to a more vulnerable parent or grandparent who then dies, the impact “is absolutely crushing,” said panelist Dr. Camille Kotton of Massachusetts General Hospital.

“Let’s whack this one down,” agreed Dr. Jamie Loehr of Cayuga Family Medicine in Ithaca, New York.

The vaccine made by Pfizer and its partner BioNTech is the only option for American children of any age. The CDC says about 13.5 million children ages 12 to 17 — slightly more than half of that age group — have received two Pfizer shots. Boosters were opened to the 16- and 17-year-olds last month.

Wednesday’s decision means about 5 million of the younger teens who had their last shot in the spring are eligible for a booster right away. New U.S. guidelines say anyone who received two Pfizer vaccinations and is eligible for a booster can get it five months after their last shot, rather than the six months previously recommended.

But one committee member, Dr. Helen Keipp Talbot of Vanderbilt University, worried that such a strong recommendation for teen boosters would distract from getting shots into the arms of kids who have not been vaccinated at all.

The advisers saw U.S. data making clear that symptomatic COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations are between seven and 11 times higher in unvaccinated adolescents than vaccinated ones.

While children do tend to suffer less serious illness from COVID-19 than adults, child hospitalizations are rising during the omicron wave — the vast majority of them unvaccinated.

During the public comment part of Wednesday’s meeting, Dr. Julie Boom of Texas Children’s Hospital said a booster recommendation for younger teens “cannot come soon enough.”

The chief safety question for adolescents is a rare side effect called myocarditis, a type of heart inflammation seen mostly in younger men and teen boys who get either the Pfizer or Moderna vaccines. The vast majority of cases are mild — far milder than the heart inflammation COVID-19 can cause — and they seem to peak in older teens, those 16 and 17.

The FDA decided a booster dose was as safe for the younger teens as the older ones based largely on data from 6,300 12- to 15-year-olds in Israel who got a Pfizer booster five months after their second dose. Israeli officials said Wednesday that they’ve seen two cases of mild myocarditis in this age group after giving more boosters, 40,000.

Earlier this week, FDA vaccine chief Dr. Peter Marks said the side effect occurs in about 1 in 10,000 men and boys ages 16 to 30 after their second shot. But he said a third dose appears less risky, by about a third, probably because more time has passed before the booster than between the first two shots.


The Associated Press Health and Science Department receives support from the Howard Hughes Medical Institute’s Department of Science Education. The AP is solely responsible for all content.

Treasure hunters sue for records on FBI’s Civil War gold dig

By MICHAEL RUBINKAM for the Associated Press

Treasure hunters who believe they found a huge cache of fabled Civil War-era gold in Pennsylvania are now on the prowl for something as elusive as the buried booty itself: government records of the FBI’s excavation.

Finders Keepers filed a federal lawsuit against the Justice Department over its failure to produce documents on the FBI’s search for the legendary gold, which took place nearly four years ago at a remote woodland site in northwestern Pennsylvania.

The FBI has since dragged its feet on the treasure hunters’ Freedom of Information Act request for records, their lawyer said Wednesday.

FILE-This Sept. 20, 2018 file photo, Dennis Parada, right, and his son Kem Parada stand at the site of the FBI’s dig for Civil War-era gold in Dents Run, Pa. Government emails released under court order show that FBI agents were looking for gold when they excavated Dent’s Run in 2018, though the FBI says that nothing was found. The treasure hunters have filed suit against the Justice Department over its failure to produce documents related to the FBI’s 2018 search for Civil War-era gold at the remote woodland site. (AP Photo/Michael Rubinkam, File)

“There’s been a pattern of behavior by the FBI that’s been very troubling,” said Anne Weismann, who represents Finders Keepers. She questioned whether the agency is “acting in good faith.”

A message was sent to the Justice Department seeking comment on the suit, which asks a judge to order the FBI to immediately turn over the records.

Finders Keepers’ owners, the father-son duo of Dennis and Kem Parada, had spent years looking for what, according to legend, was an 1863 shipment of Union gold that was lost or stolen on its way to the U.S. Mint in Philadelphia. The duo focused on a spot where they say their instruments detected a large metallic mass.

After meeting with the treasure hunters in early 2018, the FBI brought in a contractor with more sophisticated instruments. The contractor detected an underground mass that weighed up to nine tons and had the density of gold, according to an FBI affidavit unsealed last year at the request of news organizations, including The Associated Press.

The Paradas accompanied the FBI to the site in Dent’s Run, about 135 miles (220 kilometers) northeast of Pittsburgh, but say they were confined to their car while the FBI excavated.

The FBI has long insisted the March 2018 dig came up empty, but the agency has consistently stymied the Paradas’ efforts to obtain information.

The FBI initially claimed it had no files about the investigation. Then, after the Justice Department ordered a more thorough review, the FBI said its records were exempt from public disclosure. Finally, in the wake of the treasure hunters’ appeal, the FBI said it had located 2,400 pages of records and 17 video files that it could potentially turn over — but that it would take years to do so.

Finders Keepers asked the Justice Department for expedited processing, which can be granted in cases where there is widespread media interest involving questions about the government’s integrity. The Justice Department denied the request — and, as of last month, had yet to assign the FOIA request to a staffer for processing, according to the lawsuit.

“From the outset, it seems as if the FBI is doing everything it can to avoid answering the question of whether they actually found gold,” Weismann said.

Insurrection prompts year of change for US Capitol Police

By MICHAEL BALSAMO and FARNOUSH AMIRI for the Associated Press

WASHINGTON (AP) — A year after thousands of violent pro-Trump rioters overwhelmed police officers at the U.S. Capitol — severely injuring dozens in the process — the force dedicated to protecting the premier symbol of American democracy has transformed.

U.S. Capitol Police officers try to hold back rioters on the West Frontof the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021, in Washington. (AP Photo/John Minchillo)

The leaders who were in charge of the U.S. Capitol Police on Jan. 6 were ousted following criticism for intelligence and other failures that left the legislative branch vulnerable to the stunning attack. And more broadly, the agency that was once little-known outside of Washington now has an elevated profile, leading to a roughly 15% increase in funding and a greater awareness of its role in the patchwork of groups that protect the region.

With the nation’s political divide running deep and an unprecedented number of threats against lawmakers, there is still concern about the readiness of the Capitol Police to thwart another attack. But experts say the shock of the insurrection has prompted needed changes, including better communication among the Capitol Police, other law enforcement agencies and the public.

“It’s a sea change between this year and last year in terms of how the Capitol Police are thinking, and operating,” said Chuck Wexler, the head of the Police Executive Research Forum, an organization that focuses on professionalism in policing. “They’re going to be over-prepared, and willing to be criticized for being over-prepared.”

As the temporary public face of the department, then-acting Police Chief Yogananda Pittman conceded to Congress in February that multiple levels of failures allowed rioters to storm the building. But she disputed the notion that law enforcement had failed to take the threat seriously, noting how Capitol Police several days before the riot had distributed an internal document warning that extremists were poised for violence.

The police department had compiled numerous intelligence documents suggesting the crowd could turn violent and even target Congress. The intelligence documents, obtained by The Associated Press, warned that crowds could number in the tens of thousands and include members of extremist groups like the Proud Boys.

The Capitol Police Board has oversight of the force and is comprised of the House and Senate sergeants-at-arms and the architect of the Capitol, who oversees the building. It passed over Pittman in its search for a permanent chief and, in July, selected J. Thomas Manger, the former chief of the police departments in Fairfax County, Virginia, and Montgomery County, Maryland.

Manger has focused on making major changes to the agency, which includes 1,800 sworn police officers and nearly 400 civilian employees. He’s ordered new equipment for front-line officers and officers assigned to the civil disturbance unit while expanding training sessions with the National Guard and other agencies. He’s also pushed for stronger peer support and mental health services for officers.

“I think that the damage that was done on Jan. 6 was not just the physical damage to the Capitol itself. It was not just the harm, the injuries, the deaths that occurred to the men and women of the Capitol Police Department, to the demonstrators, to the folks that were on the Capitol grounds that day,” Manger said in an interview with the AP in September. “The damage went beyond that. It went to where it damaged, I think, the confidence of the American public that the Capitol could be adequately protected.”

In the last year, Capitol Police say they have also improved the way that investigators gather, analyze and disseminate intelligence and have brought on someone dedicated to planning major events to focus on intelligence and coordination. The agency has also started conducting planning sessions and exercises ahead of major events and is briefing officers in person.

Many officers within the department had criticized their own leaders, saying they had failed to recognize the threat ahead of the insurrection and didn’t do enough to bolster staffing. Some officers were outfitted with equipment for a protest, rather than a riot.

But even with a new chief and major changes to operations, questions still remain about whether the Capitol is adequately protected. While many, both inside and outside the Capitol, were surprised by the attack that took place last January, some were cautioning the intelligence community to take the planned rallies by pro-Trump entities seriously.

Sen. Mark Warner, D-Va., who chairs the Senate intelligence committee, said he had been calling the FBI for days leading up to the attack and had been assured officials were prepared. But as he made his way to the Senate floor for the certification of Democrat Joe Biden’s electoral votes, he saw the crowd of protesters coming up the hill through the Capitol windows.

“I’ve been here a long time and lived in Washington for years, and never before had I seen protesters appearing to be that close to the building, and there was a lot of them,” Warner told the AP last month. What happened next, he says, could only be described as chaotic, “ad hoc,” and an embarrassment of a response.

The Capitol Police watchdog has said only a small number of the recommendations he made to make the Capitol complex “safe and secure” have been adopted. And he says there were clear systemic issues identified after the insurrection.

“The Department still lacks an overall training infrastructure to meet the needs of the department, the level of intelligence gathering and expertise needed, and an overall cultural change needed to move the department into a protective agency as opposed to a traditional police department,” Inspector General Michael Bolton told lawmakers on the Senate Rules Committee last month.

Police say they have been focused on “completing the recommendations that could help prevent another attack” and have detailed plans in place to address the dozens of recommendations from the inspector general.

Still, the most pressing issue the force faces is staffing shortages. Manger plans to hire about 400 new officers and officials plan to bring on about 280 sworn officers this year.

“The United States Capitol Police is stronger than it was before January 6,” the agency said in a statement. “We are incredibly proud of the work our dedicated employees have done during this challenging year.”


Associated Press writer Colleen Long contributed to this report.