Capitol Police chief resigns a day after Congress was taken by a violent pro-Trump mob

Resignation comes amid grim news of another officer’s death

Steven Sund, chief of the U.S. Capitol Police, testifies in the House Administration Committee hearing on ‘Oversight of the United States Capitol Police’ on Capitol Hill on July 16, 2019. (Caroline Brehman/CQ Roll Call file photo)
Steven Sund, chief of the U.S. Capitol Police, testifies in the House Administration Committee hearing on ‘Oversight of the United States Capitol Police’ on Capitol Hill on July 16, 2019. (Caroline Brehman/CQ Roll Call file photo)
Posted January 7, 2021 at 7:44pm, Updated at 8:10pm

A day after his department failed to protect Congress from rioting by a violent pro-Trump mob that left five dead, many injured and lawmakers terrified, Capitol Police Chief Steven A. Sund announced that he will resign, effective Jan. 16.

Sund submitted his resignation letter to the Capitol Police Board just hours after Speaker Nancy Pelosi called for him to step down.

“I am respectfully submitting my letter of resignation, effective Sunday, January 16, 2021. It has been a pleasure and true honor to serve the United States Capitol Police Board and the Congressional community alongside and the women and men of the United States Capitol Police,” Sund wrote. “As discussed, I will transition into a sick leave status effective January 17, 2021, until I exhaust my available sick leave balance of approximately 440 hours.”

Sund’s tumultuous tenure as the leader of the Capitol Police began in May 2019, when he was appointed to replace Matthew R. Verderosa. It has been plagued with communications failures, claims of gender discrimination and a robust pattern of misconduct met with light punishment.

The Capitol Police union issued a statement Thursday calling for Sund’s resignation and for the resignations of Assistant Chief Chad Thomas and Assistant Chief Yogananda Pittman.

Capitol Police Assistant Chief Chad Thomas, left, and Chief Steven A. Sund testify at a February 2020 hearing on the force’s fiscal 2021 budget request. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)

“We have several protesters dead, multiple officers injured and the symbol of our Democracy, the U.S. Capitol, desecrated,” said Gus Papathanasiou, chairman of the United States Capitol Police Labor Committee. “This never should have happened. This lack of planning led to the greatest breach of the U.S. Capitol since the War of 1812. This is a failure of leadership at the very top.”

The fallout continued on Thursday, most poignantly with the news, first reported by CNN, that a Capitol Police officer involved in the riots had died.

Papathanasiou said he was proud of the men and women of the force but leadership failed the rank and file.

“Without a change at the top, we may see more events unfold like those we saw on Jan. 6,” he said. “We cannot leave our officers and the Capitol Hill community they protect to the mercy of further attacks amid a vacuum of leadership.”

Just last week, the Capitol Police said it was ready to take on the crowd expected on Capitol Hill on Wednesday as lawmakers met to certify the Electoral College victory of President-elect Joe Biden. But after a mob infiltrated both chambers of Congress and vandalized several areas of the Capitol complex, it became apparent the force was ill-prepared.

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“I am calling for the resignation of the chief of the Capitol Police, Mr. Sund, and I have received notice from [House Sergeant-at-Arms Paul D. Irving] that he will be submitting his resignation,” Pelosi, a California Democrat, said at a news conference Thursday.

Irving, Senate Sergeant-at-Arms Michael Stenger and Architect of the Capitol J. Brett Blanton make up the Capitol Police Board, which oversees Sund.

Shortly after news of Sund’s resignation broke, Stenger tendered his resignation Thursday as well.

“Today I requested and received the resignation of Michael Stenger, the Senate Sergeant at Arms and Doorkeeper, effective immediately,” Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said in a statement, adding that deputy SAA Jennifer Hemingway will step in as acting Senate SAA.

Sund has been with the Capitol Police since January 2017, serving previously as chief of operations and assistant police chief. He began his policing career in 1990 as a Metropolitan Police Department patrol officer in D.C.’s Sixth District. As a lieutenant in MPD’s special operations division, Sund planned major events, including presidential inaugurations and state funerals.