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NJ State Police Superintendent on Capitol siege: ‘It’s clear that things could have been done better’

NJ State Police Superintendent Patrick Callahan joins Yahoo Finance Live to discuss the police response to the Capitol siege.

Video Transcript

ZACK GUZMAN: I want to turn the attention back to the issue of security there because some of the most asked questions from the events in the Capitol yesterday continue to be where were the police, where was the National Guard, and where were the arrests as protesters surrounded the Capitol? The New York Times reported that it was VP Mike Pence that eventually approved the order to deploy the DC National Guard, not President Trump. But given the rally was not a surprise and the fact that Rudy Giuliani had called for a trial by combat earlier in the morning, many are wondering why preparations weren't made ahead of time to secure the Capitol.

I want to bring out our next guest for more on that, that would be New Jersey State Police Superintendent Colonel Patrick Callahan who joins us now alongside Yahoo Finance's Anjalee Khemlani as well. And, Colonel, I mean-- I know New Jersey sent state troopers to DC in relief after the events yesterday, but you've been doing this a long time. I just want to ask, right off the bat, have you ever seen a security failure like this before?

PATRICK CALLAHAN: Well, I think, certainly not at the Capitol building, but I have-- in the history of law enforcement, we have seen breaches where the crowd ultimately overwhelms the law enforcement that were there. But, as you pointed out, I know we weren't there at the front end of it, but at the request of Washington, DC, through that emergency management process, we do have 74 troopers with boots on the ground around the Capitol now.

ANJALEE KHEMLANI: Colonel, I know there's so many questions about what happened and we're still going to find out more. But one thing that has been pretty interesting to watch is the criticism about how things were handled and comparisons to, you know, Black Lives Matter marches. I know that you've dealt with it in some of the cities in New Jersey as well, Trenton being one of them. What would you say, you know, about some of this criticism and about the way it was handled?

PATRICK CALLAHAN: You know, I think, as with any incident like this, Anjalee, I trust that there will be a full, you know, after action and postmortem because if we don't have lessons learned with regards to how the preparation, how the response went-- it's clear that things could have been done better. but we're pretty good at Monday morning quarterbacking things, which is easy for me to do sitting a couple miles north, so I won't give specifics on that. But I think in comparison with Black Lives Matter, in the wake of George Floyd's murder, we had hundreds and hundreds of protesters-- thousands of protesters. And really, in New Jersey, our relationships between law enforcement and community, again always, always room for improvement, but I think are pretty phenomenal. And that's why you saw over the course of really weeks and months of protests, we only arrested 58 people and that was primarily in Trenton, Asbury Park, and Atlantic City in one night. So although we're not perfect by any means, but I think agent of law enforcement with the community, especially in volatile situations and highly charged, that de-escalation is key.

AKIKO FUJITA: Colonel, I want to go back to the planning in all of this because clearly there was some expectation, the fact that New Jersey State Police were also called in. What were you told to expect on the ground specifically? We've had a number of lawmakers who've come forward saying that they were-- they felt threatened going into Wednesday's session before any of this actually played out.

PATRICK CALLAHAN: Yeah, I think-- what we were told to expect-- I mean, we had originally-- we were obviously watching it unfold as everybody else was here and in short order we're on the phone with both Capitol Police as well as DC Metro. And once they put in that emergency management assistance request, which allows us to share resources, we were southbound. We had 74 troopers sworn in by the US Marshal, basically deputized. And so right now they're serving in-- the ask was the security, crowd and traffic control. And I know Saturday we're also sending 500 New Jersey National Guard members down, which will probably be there through the duration of the inauguration.

ANJALEE KHEMLANI: Colonel, just like there were some delays in deploying the National Guard in DC and also just questions around, you know, how long it took to get in touch with you and the procedure to have New Jersey State Police involved and New Jersey law enforcement involved. Can you walk us through that real quick?

PATRICK CALLAHAN: Sure. It starts with, you know, phone calls initially, but then in order to really trigger that response they specifically asked for Virginia, Maryland, and New Jersey to respond that was a specific request to cover those security, crowd control, traffic. And within that-- it's a verbal response, but I would say probably within I saw the Washington DC mayor announce it on her news conference and we had probably had the wheels in motion probably about an hour before she had made that determination. I thought from my perspective that it was phenomenal as far as the amount-- at least from a New Jersey perspective to get 74 troopers basically within five or six hours on a post at the Capitol given some of the administrative things that we have to do that-- I thought the response of mobilizing was incredible from my perspective.

ZACK GUZMAN: Yeah, I think a lot of people would agree if it was an event that wasn't known was going to happen. That was one of the concerns is that a lot of this could have happened seeing as this was an event that had been planned. But in terms of what you said about arrests made during other events, you can point back to what happened in many cities around Black Lives Matter, only 52 people arrested, according to "The New York Times" tally here, after what we saw play out. Is that surprising to you in terms of what was unfolding and the fact that you only walk away with people who are mostly arrested on the grounds of breaking curfew?

PATRICK CALLAHAN: Right. Well, I think what you're going to see is through the use of video and the tips line that was set up for the Capitol Police, I do think you're going to see several more people charged with the more serious crimes. But I think what you have to also keep in mind, if there's one police officer there and 100 people, that police officer puts himself out into the crowd, we call that breaking the discipline or the integrity of the line, and there was obviously some gaps there. So it's a difficult balance when you're in that situation charged. I have been in those situations and the key is to try and keep, not only the public safe, but to keep the law enforcement officers there and the integrity and the discipline of that line. Because I think you've all seen sometimes, whether it's a police officer or somebody with an opposing view that goes out to the crowd, that becomes-- that mob mentality takes over and that one person could quickly be under assault by 30 or 40 folks.

AKIKO FUJITA: Yeah, also pretty extraordinary to see some of the police officers taking selfies in some of the images that came out as the violence was unfolding, certainly going to be a lot of investigating happening on that front. Colonel Patrick Callahan, New Jersey State Police superintendent, it's good to talk to you and our thanks to Anjalee Khemlani as well.