Yogananda Pittman was designated as acting chief of the United States Capitol Police on Friday, becoming both the first woman and first Black person to lead the federal law enforcement agency in charge of protecting Congress.
Pittman assumed her new role two days after a pro-Trump mob stormed the Capitol while Congress was voting to certify electoral votes. The rioters broke windows, ransacked offices and defaced statues on Wednesday following President Donald Trump’s rally near the White House. Steven Sund, the former Capitol Police chief, announced his resignation on Thursday. At least five people were killed, including a Capitol police officer.
After joining the force in April 2001, Pittman rose through the ranks, providing security and protection for senators. She was promoted to sergeant in 2006 and then to lieutenant in 2010. In 2012, she became one of the first Black women to attain the rank of captain.
As a commander, Pittman supervised more than 400 officers and civilians and oversaw security during the 2013 presidential inauguration, according to the agency’s website. Last October, Pittman — then assistant chief of police — received the 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 said in a statement. “It says to them that these positions are obtainable and available to them.”
Pittman graduated from Morgan State University — the largest historically black university in Maryland — with a psychology degree, earned a master’s degree in public administration from Marist College in 2019 and is currently working toward her Ph.D. in public administration from West Chester University.
Pittman was tasked with leading a federal agency that faces increasing scrutiny following last week’s siege of the Capitol. On Thursday, U.S. Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi called for Sund’s resignation and told reporters that House Sergeant-at-Arms Paul Irving, the chamber’s top protocol officer, would be resigning as well.
“There was a failure of leadership at the top of the Capitol Police,” said Pelosi, currently the most powerful woman in Congress. In addition to the police, she said the Federal Bureau of Investigation, the Department of Defense and other elements of the executive branch would be reviewed.
Rep. Tim Ryan of Ohio, chair of the subcommittee overseeing the Capitol Police, said in a news conference on Monday that two police officers have been suspended. The lawmaker said there were disturbing videos that show officers letting rioters behind barricades and taking selfies with them.
“I can assure you these videos are being thoroughly investigated and there will be consequences for any deviations from proper training and protocols,” Ryan said on social media.
Gus Papathanasiou, the head of the Capitol Police union, also called for a change in leadership in a statement on Thursday after witnessing an event he never thought he’d see in his lifetime.
“This never should have happened,” Papathanasiou wrote. “This lack of planning led to the greatest breach of the U.S. Capitol since the War of 1812. This is a failure of leadership at the very top.”