Courageous Leadership: PEMM Students & Alumni Defend U.S. Capitol

March 15, 2021

violent mob of people with barrier and police

Center: PEMM student Dan Harrington, Captain, Metropolitan Police Department, Sixth District, on Jan. 6, 2021 defending the U.S. Capitol (Photo provided by Dan Harrington)

Three current members of our Program for Excellence in Municipal Management (PEMM) were on the front lines on January 6, risking their lives to protect members of Congress and our democracy from violent mobs of insurrectionists. Seven PEMM alumni also risked their lives to protect our freedoms.

PEMM is a nationally accredited Certified Public Managers® (CPM) Program, developed in partnership between the George Washington University Center for Excellence in Public Leadership (GW-CEPL), part of the College of Professional Studies, and the District of Columbia Department of Human Resources (DCHR). The program, with more than 20 years of history, develops mid-level managers who will make a positive difference in their organization.

“We seek to develop mid-level managers who will be future leaders of the District of Columbia, serving residents of and visitors to the nation's capital with courage, responsibility and stewardship." said Dr. Jing Burgi-Tian, program director, International Programs and Certified Public Manager Programs, Center for Excellence in Public Leadership.

“The PEMM program helps our participants become collaborative and open-minded change agents who can challenge the existing status quo. We help them to develop visionary, analytical and people skills to move their organizations and teams forward, and we challenge them to learn from their successes as well as mistakes. We are really proud of the leadership roles our students and alumni took on during recent events.”

In their Own Words: PEMM Students Share Reflections

Three students in PEMM, cohort 33, and leaders in the Metropolitan Police Department of the District of Columbia shared their experiences looking back at January 6, 2021:

“It is hard to reduce that day down to one sentence or even one emotion. The flood of awareness regarding the significance, and magnitude, of that day did not come into focus until the days and weeks that followed as the images (both still and news footage) started being reported on. I can tell you that in the moment there were no thoughts about “saving democracy,” there was only existing within one moment to the next and trying to be there for my fellow officers to repel a vicious and sustained assault on all those who stood in the way of the rioters. What was done is what needed to be done and now the analysis of the how and the why, as well as the commentary on our actions that day, is in the hands of history.”

Captain Dan Harrington
Metropolitan Police Department
Sixth District

“In my 16 years as a member of the Metropolitan Police Department, I have yet to experience the bevy of emotions regarding any one incident as I have experienced both during and after January 6. Prior to the incident, I was flooded with mixed emotions, understanding and believing in “Freedom of Speech,” but troubled by the messages and actions being attached to that freedom.”

Makal Lashay

“During the incident, my immediate concern was for my fellow officers as we were spat at and had objects thrown at and on us. As the actions of the rioters became more violent, I thought of my family and how I had barely spoken to them that day. In the days following, the incident I began watching some of the footage being shared and I found myself both saddened and proud. Deeply saddened by what took place and extremely proud of the women and men of the Metropolitan Police Department that risked their lives to protect our Democracy.”

Lieutenant LaShay N. Makal
Metropolitan Police Department
Investigative Service Bureau
Narcotics and Special Investigations Division

“While staged, before what would become known as the Capitol Siege, I felt increasing levels of impending doom, which was a well-known feeling as a manager of a civil disturbance platoon that has been activated frequently, and as such has become victim to the escalating violence from rioters. Still, there were monumental differences in the manner of which the critical incident at the Capitol was impactful.” 

“Most critical events, or risky moments that I’ve experienced, were so swift that the episode was over before I had a moment to ponder mortality or process the situation enough to realize the trauma involved. The dangerous environment at the Capitol persisted for hours, yet in the moment, the experience was a blur. There were multiple occasions that I felt imminent lethal danger, for myself and the officers in my charge. Law enforcement personnel were accosted and outnumbered at various points, but were steadfast. The police lines were maintained with so few resources that it almost appeared magical, as lines seemed to be held mostly with hopes, and prayers, until sufficient resources arrived. When the smoke cleared, I observed a cross in the debris that read “Miracles happen, just believe” (which I fully acknowledge is cliché, but did in fact occur). Superstition aside, I attribute the final outcome to the heart and endurance of the law enforcement members who responded with a lot of fortitude and a little equipment, as well as the additional agencies who assisted as family.”  

“Afterwards, I felt the sadness and loneliness that occasionally comes with the nature of police work, which is oftentimes thankless and harshly criticized. I also felt a heartbreak for the numerous assaults that the officers under my care were subject to during the chaos, when I was made aware of the specifics and various forms of each act of abuse.”

“Still, when I evaluated what transpired (both in memory and mandatory video review), I noticed courage as familiar faces hugged, lightheartedly encouraged one another, and cared for each other in any spare moment possible. I also observed faces who I don’t recognize, but should not be referred to as strangers necessarily because they answered the same call that bonds all law enforcement. There is a togetherness that comes with standing for justice in times of danger, scorn and ridicule, regardless of recognition or scrutiny. We are here to help.” 

Lieutenant Valerie Patete
Metropolitan Police Department
Seventh District
Patrol Services South

More information about The Program for Excellence in Municipal Management (PEMM)

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