The US Capitol Police’s threat investigations dropped in 2022 for the first time in five years but the agency’s police chief said the number of threats against members of Congress is “still too high.”
The latest figure released Tuesday comes just months after an attack on then-House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s husband and days after the two-year anniversary of the January 6, 2021, insurrection at the US Capitol – events that forced lawmakers to contend with the gravity of political violence and threats.
“The threats against Members of Congress are still too high,” US Capitol Police Chief Tom Manger said in a news release. “This has resulted in a necessary expansion of, not only our investigative capabilities, but our protection responsibilities as well. While that work is ongoing, everyone continuing to decrease violent political rhetoric across the country is the best way to keep everyone safe.”
The Capitol Police Threat Assessment Section investigated 7,501 cases in 2022, down from 9,625 in 2021 and 8,613 in 2020. The Capitol Police noted that the numbers include investigations into direct threats and concerning statements.
“Overall, during the last couple of decades the Threat Assessment Section’s caseload has increased because people on social media have a false sense of anonymity and feel more emboldened,” Mario Scalora, the US Capitol Police’s consulting psychologist, said in the release. “This is not a problem we can only arrest our way out of.”
In the weeks following January 6, 2021, social media chatter and other information indicated a heightened threat for members of Congress in their home states, a law enforcement official told CNN at the time. By May 2021, threats were up 107% compared to 2020, though Capitol Police did not identify what it believed to be behind the increase.
Calls for violence against lawmakers online and elsewhere have referenced both elected officials and their families, according to sources familiar with the threat environment who told CNN in October that law enforcement agencies have been grappling with how to address those threats in the wake of the Capitol attack.
All members of Congress receive threats, Capitol Police said in the release, adding that the amount against both parties is similar.
CNN has previously reported that several Republican members who voted in favor of impeaching former President Donald Trump after the insurrection had received death threats over their decision.