A Failure of Leadership: The Mayhem in DC

Local and federal authorities were warned that people gathering for the rally led by President Donald J. Trump might go sideways and get unruly—yet they were woefully unprepared for what unfolded.

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We are still sorting out what might be learned in the settling dust following the mayhem in Washington DC last week. Conflicting and sketchy reports abound. 

It is believed that the FBI and other law enforcement agencies passed warnings to the U.S. Capitol Police about the possibility of violence from an approaching herd of people—coming from all points on the compass rose—to the nation's Capital to attend a rally headlined by the outgoing president of the United States.

We can say with some confidence that many of the people who went wildly sideways and stormed the steps of the Capitol Building had telegraphed their intentions in social media posts.

We can say with certainty that a certain number—and not an insignificant number—of those gathered at the rally turned violent. They became a mob. 

There is widespread consensus that the police response was woefully inadequate. In fact, it was atrocious. 

I love and support the police. I'm a "super-fan" of law enforcement officers and police leaders.

But I can't and won't abide failure.

I'm a former resident of Washington, DC. I'm a former federal employee who once walked (and at times ran) through the subterranean hallways in and around that beautiful building. I sometimes had big bundles of paper in my arms, tasked with delivering important information to members of the House and Senate.

I had a pretty cool job (security clearance and all) that I loved. I could walk around DC knowing that I knew stuff most folks didn't know—I had (some) access! 

Pretty cool.

But for me it was alwasy about serving the nation—the people—and not having the ability to run those underground tunnels with some cool sense of self-importance. 

There is an energy to that building that is difficult to put into words. It humbles you. It sticks with you. 

I turned on my TV last Wednesday, dialed in the news, saw the mayhem unfolding in DC, and literally vomited on my living room carpet.

The fact that a crowd could breach that building made me sick. My immediate thought was, "Where the [bleep] are the cops?

"Where are the [bleeping] cops!?" I wanted to tear my hair out, but because I shave my skull every morning that wasn't going to happen.

"Where are the [bleeping] cops?"

Going Forward

Okay, so what's next?

Philosopher George Santayana wrote, "Those who forget the past are condemned to repeat it."

We just saw history—maybe one of the worst days in the history of this great country—being made.

In college at the University of Maryland (just a few miles from DC) I was an American History major. Because I was a glutton for punishment I also majored in American Political Systems.

Part of that study was to understand how to keep Democracy sacred.

It gives me no pleasure whatsoever to say this, but it must be said: Law enforcement in the Capitol Building failed on Wednesday. FAILED.

Whether or not that was willful indifference or willing participation will only be gleaned by investigators.

Regardless of what is revealed in coming months, it is imperative that something be learned so this mess isn't repeated. 

Reading Reports

If you have a pulse and an Internet connection, you've been reading the reports.

Steven D'Antuono—who leads the FBI's Washington field office—told news outlets, "There was no indication that there was anything planned other than First Amendment-protected activity."

That is either a patent lie or total incompetence. Either way, it turns my stomach.

Really good law enforcement leaders—the best command staff, from Chiefs to Captains to Lieutenants to Sergeants on the street—will gain respect from the men and women they lead by being decent and honest and openly admitting a mistake.

The police response—or, better said, the lack thereof—will be discussed at events like IACP and ILEETA and other training venues for a long time. Indeed, it is imperative that something be learned so this mess isn't repeated. 

Final Words

My parents had differing stories on how I got named Douglas. Mom said it was because of a youthful crush. Dad said it was because of Douglas MacArthur.

Here's the moral of that story: Two differing and seemingly contradicting things can simultaneously be true.

Consider this parable.

There are two mountaineers seeking the zenith on two different nearby mountains—one on the east and one on the west side of an idyllic valley. They reach the precipice of the peaks around the same time—it's mid-day. The adventurer on the west side calls to the man on the east, "Brother! Look at that valley below us and how the shadows of those trees fall from right to left!" The man on the eastern peak bellows back, "It is indeed a beautiful valley, but those shadows fall from left to right."

In fact and in truth, the shadows in the middle of that valley fall from south to north—left and right is merely a matter of perspective.

We must do better than what we witnessed in DC last week.

It is imperative that something be learned so this mess isn't repeated. 

See both sides. Find the middle.

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Doug Wyllie Crop Headshot
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