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Morgan State University alumna named head of U.S. Capitol Police following riots

A Morgan State University alumna was named chief of the U.S. Capitol Police days after the deadly siege on the nation’s Capitol complex spurred its acting chief to resign following the department’s faltering.

After Democratic House Speaker Nancy Pelosi called on former Chief Steven Sund to step down from his position, he submitted his resignation, saying it would be effective Jan. 16. But according to the U.S. Capitol Police website, Assistant Chief Yogananda D. Pittman took control of the agency Friday.

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Pittman is the first woman and African American to hold the agency’s highest position, according to Morgan State University President David Wilson, who described her as a “distinguished” and “decorated” alumna.

A member of the Capitol Police Department for nearly 20 years, Pittman started in the department in the Senate’s security detail. In 2006, she was promoted to sergeant and assigned to the communication department, according to the agency’s website. Four years later, she was promoted to lieutenant and assigned to the House division before becoming one of the first African American women named captain in 2012.

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Yogananda D. Pittman was named acting chief of police for the United States Capitol Police on Friday. (Photo courtesy U.S. Capitol Police)
Yogananda D. Pittman was named acting chief of police for the United States Capitol Police on Friday. (Photo courtesy U.S. Capitol Police)

Pittman supervised more than 400 officers and civilians, and led the efforts to provide security for President Barack Obama’s second inauguration in 2013. In June 2018, she was promoted to deputy chief and was named bureau commander for the Command and Coordination Bureau.

Pittman graduated from Morgan State with a bachelor of science degree in psychology in 1991 and earned a master’s degree in public administration from Marist College in 2019. The agency said she is working toward her doctorate in public administration from West Chester University.

Despite ample warnings about pro-Donald Trump demonstrations in Washington, U.S. Capitol Police did not bolster staffing Wednesday and didn’t prepare for the possibility that the planned protests could escalate into massive violent riots, according to several people briefed on law enforcement’s response.

The department had the same number of officers in place as on a routine day. While some of those officers were outfitted with equipment for a protest, they were not staffed or equipped for a riot.

Once the mob began to move on the Capitol, a police lieutenant issued an order not to use deadly force, which explains why officers outside the building did not draw their weapons as the crowd closed in. Officers are sometimes ordered against escalating a situation by drawing their weapons if superiors believe doing so could lead to a stampede or a shootout.

In an interview with The Washington Post, Sund said he sought help from other agencies but was rebuffed by his bosses in Congress.

Capitol Police officer Brian D. Sicknick died after being beaten with a fire extinguisher and Ashli Babbitt, who lived in Maryland for several years, was fatally shot by a Capitol Police officer during the confrontation as she tried to breach an area of the Capitol; three others died of medical emergencies, officials have said.

On Sunday, the agency announced the death by suicide of off-duty officer Howard “Howie” Liebengood.

The Associated Press contributed to this article.

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