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In Historic 1st, U.S. Capitol Police Name Yogananda Pittman As Acting Chief

Assistant Chief Yogananda<strong> </strong>Pittman was designated as acting chief of U.S. Capitol Police on Jan. 8. She joined the force in 2001.
U.S. Capitol Police
Assistant Chief Yogananda Pittman was designated as acting chief of U.S. Capitol Police on Jan. 8. She joined the force in 2001.

Updated at 1:40 p.m. ET

Still reeling from the aftermath of the deadly insurrection at the seat of the U.S. government last week, U.S. Capitol Police have designated Yogananda Pittman as the law enforcement agency's acting chief.

She has been with the force since April 2001 and was named acting chief on Friday, according to the U. S. Capitol Police (USCP) website. That came two days after pro-Trump extremists faced off and eventually overwhelmed security forces at the U.S. Capitol complex.

Pittman is the first woman and the first African American to lead the law enforcement agency, USCP confirms to NPR.

She assumed the role a day after now-former USCP Chief Steven Sund announced his resignation following a mob laying siege to the Capitol, ransacking lawmakers' offices, breaking windows and defacing walls and statues inside the complex. Sund said he was stepping down just hours after House Speaker Nancy Pelosi pushed for his removal.

Sund, who has since refuted claims that he did not request National Guard and other security forces ahead of Wednesday's attack, originally said in his resignation letter that his last day on the job would be Jan. 16.

Pittman has built a distinguished career with the USCP.

She was one of the first Black female supervisors to rise to the rank of captain in 2012. In that role she oversaw more than 400 officers and civilians and was an integral part of the security planning for President Barack Obama's second inauguration the following year, according to her biography.

She was promoted to inspector in 2015 for the USCP, where she was responsible for responding to the department's disciplinary appeals and grievances. In 2018 Pittman was promoted to deputy chief and tapped to become bureau commander for the Command and Coordination Bureau, according to the USCP. She is currently assistant chief of police for Protective and Intelligence Operations.

In October, Sund announced that Pittman was recognized as the 2020 recipient of the Women in Federal Law Enforcement's Outstanding Advocate for Women in Federal Law Enforcement award.

"It is very important for young female law enforcement officers to see someone who looks like them in leadership positions," Pittman in a statement announcing her award. "It says to them that these positions are obtainable and available to them."

Pittman graduated from Morgan State University, a historically Black college in Baltimore, with a degree in psychology.

Pittman was one of the first two African American women to be promoted to the rank of captain in the U.S. Capitol Police in 2012.
J. Scott Applewhite / AP
Pittman was one of the first two African American women to be promoted to the rank of captain in the U.S. Capitol Police in 2012.

"We commend this wise decision as it is widely known that Morgan graduates are purposefully prepared to not only Grow the Future, but to Lead the World," Morgan State University President David Wilson said in a statement. "Together, we celebrate this recognition of leadership and congratulate one of our own, Acting Chief Yogananda D. Pittman, on her achievement."

Pittman also earned a master's degree from Marist College in public administration and is currently working on her doctorate in public administration, according to USCP.

Pittman takes over a force that is facing mounting scrutiny for its handling of the security of the U.S. Capitol, as a mob breached the complex while lawmakers were in session occupied with the business of certifying the Electoral College results to affirm Joe Biden as the next president.

The process was delayed several hours because of the attack, which was responsible for five deaths, including USCP officer Brian Sicknick.

The 42-year-old military veteran who had served in the force for 12 years died Thursday after being seriously injured after "physically engaging with protesters," USCP said.

His death is being investigated by USCP and the Metropolitan Police Department's Homicide Branch. The U.S. Justice Department is also opening a federal murder investigation into Sicknick's death, a source familiar with the matter told NPR's Carrie Johnson.

A San Diego-area woman, Ashli Babbitt, 35, was shot and killed during the attack inside the capitol by a USCP officer. Three others died as a result of Wednesday's bedlam, from unspecified "medical emergencies," according to MPD officials.

Separately, USCP announced that Howard Liebengood, a 15-year veteran of the force, died Saturday off-duty.

Barry Pollack, a Washington attorney speaking for the family, confirmed to NPR on Monday that Liebengood died by suicide.

"I can confirm that Howard Liebengood died on Saturday by suicide after having been on duty at the Capitol on Wednesday," Pollack told Johnson, NPR's Justice correspondent.

"His death is a tragedy that has deprived all of us a dedicated public servant. His family has suffered a devastating loss and asks that they be given space to grieve in private," Pollack said.

Copyright 2021 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Brakkton Booker is a National Desk reporter based in Washington, DC.