In the aftermath of a pro-Trump insurrection that killed one police officer and appears to have contributed to the suicide deaths of two others, the Department of Veterans Affairs will be sending two “mobile vet centers” to the U.S. Capitol to provide free trauma counseling and other services to U.S. Capitol Police, National Guard members, and congressional staff.
Some staffers and members of Congress had to flee for their lives during the Jan. 6 violence. It is now known that some members of the mob that invaded the Capitol intended to assassinate political leaders seen as enemies of Donald Trump. Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez was one of those members, forced to hide as the mob looted offices and searched for their targets. She had to avoid the “extraction point” specified for members of Congress due to a fear that the same Republican members who were live-tweeting the location of the House Speaker would reveal her location. Staffers in some offices barricaded themselves using office furniture; Trump-appointed federal officials delayed the arrival of backup until most danger had already passed.
We now know that the attack on the Capitol was much more violent than initially reported, with nearly 140 law enforcement officers injured, some severely. But the mental scars are going to be severe as well, especially for officers and staff who now believe they were betrayed by their leadership and by fellow officers.
While some officers fought to secure the building, others let the mob pass through unchallenged or, allegedly, even gave directions. While many officers were injured, it is now clear that those injuries came about because leaders either refused to plan for the predicted violence or were rebuffed when they tried.
Both officers and staffers are now reeling from one of the most consequential leadership failures in modern history, and from the possibility that their lives were put in danger, at some level, on purpose. Congress had better make sure that all those in and near the Capitol that day receive both immediate and long-term mental health care, and at government expense.