As senators sheltered in place, a violent mob burst through the doors of the Capitol and began moving directly toward the doors to the Senate Chamber. Thinking fast, Capitol Police Officer Eugene Goodman moved to draw the attention of the QAnon-shirted man at the front of the invasion. Goodman then taunted the group, daring them to follow him. He then led them up a flight of stairs, away from the Senate, and toward a location where additional officers could join him to help containing the group.
Goodman’s fast thinking and willingness to put himself in the middle of a dangerous situation has made him a hero of the Trumpist insurgency. In just a matter of seconds, he may have become the deciding factor between events that were merely shocking, and a bloodbath in the Senate. Goodman was not the only one. As more stories emerge from that day, it’s clear that a number of officers put themselves on the line for the nation. There were other heroes who saved lives, and possibly the nation.
But there were also police who didn’t just pose to take selfies with white supremacist invaders, they were an active part in the assault. Which could mean that, in addition to everything else, Jan. 6 becomes a critical day in determining where policing goes from here.
Perspective is everything.
Other officers also garnering praise include Daniel Hodges, who spent part of the assault on the Capitol wedged between doors, with his head and shoulder sticking out, and being beaten repeatedly by the Trump mob. “It was absolutely my pleasure to crush a white nationalist insurrection,” said Hodges. “I’m glad I was in a position to help. We’ll do it as many times as it takes.”
Even more heroes are likely to emerge as more details appear from the astounding battle that D.C. Metro Police fought in a tunnel below the building. Cut off from other groups, and unable to contact superiors, the unit that included police officer Michael Fanone were convinced that if they failed to hold a door leading into the House chamber, consequences would be unthinkable.
“We weren’t battling 50 or 60 rioters in this tunnel,” said Fanone. “We were battling 15,000 people. It looked like a medieval battle scene.” Fanone was not even supposed to be there that day. Assigned to a task in another part of D.C., he sped to the Capitol when police on the ground began sending out desperate requests for help.
“They were overthrowing the Capitol,” said Fanone, “the seat of democracy. And I fucking went.”
But while at the same time these officers represent exactly the self-sacrifice and dedication to cause that has made police an often venerated institution in America, their behavior was far from universal.
Even as the insurgency was underway, Twitter was already showing images of cooperation and comradery between the people assaulting the Capitol and those who were supposed to be protecting it. That included officers who appeared to remove barriers from insurgents’ paths, those that joked with terrorists even as they were battering their way into the building, and those who paused to take selfies with the men who were hunting congressional hostages. In the wake of that behavior, and the unbelievably poor planning that allowed the insurrection to successfully breech the Capitol in the first place, most of the force’s leadership has resigned. Several officers have been suspended, and at least a dozen more are under investigation for possibly supporting the insurgents. At least one officer was seen waving a Confederate flag inside the Capitol in celebration of the invasion. Another slipped off his police cap and replaced it with a red MAGA hat. One officer appeared to be leading a group of insurgents—and not in the sense of misdirecting them.
Like the assault itself, this is shocking, but should not be surprising. After all, as The Boston Globe reports, Black officers in the Capitol police have been warning for years that their ranks are laced with white supremacists. And as The Guardian reports, police departments in many parts of the United States have a history of actively supporting neo-Nazi and white supremacist militias. Many of these white supremacist groups have found that police departments provide a fertile recruiting ground.
As the Brookings Institute indicates, there is a direct connection between the white supremacist culture that is allowed to pervade many police departments, and the failure to provide adequate planning for an event that was clearly designed to threaten the Capitol. The problem in policing isn’t bad apples, it’s rotten trees. Not only were some of the Capitol police willing to pitch in with the insurgents, some of those smashing into the Capitol were also police. That includes two members of a Virginia police department who were so sure their colleagues would be thrilled by their actions, they videoed their romp threw the halls of Congress and sent it back to their department. Then they bragged about how easy it had been to “take the Capitol.”
And it was easy. The insurgents didn’t need to fire a shot. Thanks to some of the assistance they received, they barely broke a sweat. And at the same time, other officers were fighting, being injured, and even dying to hold the same line that white supremacist cops were willingly surrendering. That’s not something that can be solved with sensitivity training. That’s something that demands a purge—and indictments.
There is no greater threat to the life of a police officer, white or Black, than racist police officers within their own ranks.