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New Capitol Police chief says officers testifying next week "need to be heard"

New Capitol Police chief discusses reform
New Capitol Police chief discusses reform 01:44

The new chief of the U.S. Capitol Police said the officers testifying next week about the January 6 assault on the Capitol building "need to be heard."

"I think we need to pay close attention to what they're saying," said Thomas Manger, the former police chief in  Montgomery County, Maryland, who was sworn into his new position on Friday.

In an interview with CBS News, Manger said he "absolutely" supports the Capitol Police officers who are slated to speak on Tuesday at the first meeting of the House select committee investigating the January 6 attack.

Capitol Police Chief Ceremony
Thomas Manger, the new chief of the U.S. Capitol Police, is seen during his swearing in ceremony at the Senate steps of Capitol on Friday. Tom Williams/CQ-Roll Call, Inc via Getty Images

"And frankly, that's one of my jobs, too, is to listen to these officers and hear from them what their concerns are," Manger said.

The four officers — two from the U.S. Capitol Police and two from the D.C. Metropolitan Police — are slated to testify before the mostly Democratic panel about their experiences on the frontlines during the attack, where more than 100 officers were injured.

The officers will testify in their own capacities, according to the select committee, meaning they'll represent their own views, rather than those of their employers.

Manger said he intended to cooperate with the panel and would be willing to testify, if called.

"I'm not sure I can offer much," Manger stated. "You know, I was not the police chief on January 6 and frankly, my focus is looking forward. I'm not putting my energy into trying to play the blame game."

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Manger was sworn in Friday by Karen Gibson, Senate Sergeant at Arms. Stefani Reynolds/Bloomberg via Getty Images

Capitol Police have faced scrutiny from multiple investigative agencies and congressional committees in the six months since the attack. Manger told CBS News he hopes to restore confidence as he takes the helm at a department still reeling from the deaths of several officers, the resignation of its previous chief and an undermanned force.

He has paid close attention to recommendations made in multiple reports, which have cited deficiencies in planning and intelligence, staffing, equipment and training among the Capitol Police force.

"There's a lot of things that you can point to that, that may have made a difference on the 6th, but what I'm really focused on is, okay, so what do we do about that now?" he said.

Manger said he'd be "foolish" to think an event like Capital assault couldn't happen again, but noted the police force is now "better prepared."

The 42-year police veteran said he felt compelled to come out of retirement after watching the images unfold on television on January 6, describing it as an "emotional experience."

"I remember being angry," Manger recalled. "I was looking at cops being assaulted. What I wanted to do was get in my car and go down there and help them."

Manger replaces acting Capitol Police Chief Yogananda Pittman, who took over one day after the riot. In February, Pittman received a vote of no confidence from the Capitol Police labor union.

Capitol Police Chief Ceremony
Manger, the new chief of the U.S. Capitol Police, talks with former acting Chief Yogananda Pittman, after Manger was sworn in as chief at the Senate steps of the Capitol on Friday. Tom Williams/CQ-Roll Call, Inc via Getty Images

Manger said he did not know what was "involved" in that decision, and credited Pittman as "smart" and a "good leader" who implemented many of the recommendations laid out in the various inquiries. He said he hopes to keep her on his leadership team.

"I think Chief Pittman did a really great job when she took over as acting chief," he said. "I know there's folks that want to make judgments about somebody, or you know, on their worst day. Well, none of us should be judged as a result, just based on one day of our life."

In his new role, Manger inherits a looming funding deadline: The agency is on the verge of running out of money unless Congress acts on a supplemental security funding bill, three sources previously confirmed to CBS News. Capitol Police also face a manpower shortage, as officers have continued to rack up extensive overtime pay.

Manger hopes staff won't need to be furloughed and intends to ask lawmakers to fund specific needs at the agency.

"I think that the members of Congress understand that there are some critical needs that need to be met," he said. "I've got to have confidence that they will understand how important this is and do the right thing."

Earlier this month, Capitol Police decided to remove fencing that had been installed around the U.S. Capitol after the January 6 breach, but the Capitol complex itself has been closed to visitors after it was shuttered last year due to the coronavirus pandemic. It remains closed in the wake of the January 6 attack.

Manger said he believes the Capitol Police force has the manpower to safely reopen the complex to visitors, although the decision would ultimately be made by the Capitol Police Board and congressional leaders.

"I think that that's coming," Manger said. "I think we can do it. I think we can do it safely."

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