Native of Cambridge named acting chief of U.S. Capitol police


WASHINGTON — A member of Cambridge-South Dorchester High School’s class of 1991 has been appointed acting chief of the U.S. Capitol police.

Yogananda D. Pittman moved into the post after the resignation of former chief Steven A. Sund following last week’s breach of the U.S. Capitol by supporters of President Donald Trump.

The appointment was met with congratulations from many who knew her during her time in Cambridge, Maryland. But that support was not found among the officers of the force, who demanded Thursday not only the resignation of Mr. Sund, but also of other senior commanders, including then-Assistant Chief Pittman.

Ms. Pittman’s promotion to assistant chief was announced among others Oct. 20, 2019. At that time, then-Chief Sund said, “These commanders are committed to our mission and to the department. The wealth of knowledge and experience they each bring to their new positions will assist us in continuing to raise the bar as we address new and emerging threats, ensure our operational readiness and develop and implement new strategic goals and objectives.”

Ms. Pittman joined the USCP in April 2001 and graduated from the Federal Law Enforcement Training Center in September 2001. Her first USCP assignment was in the Senate Division, where she provided security and protective details for U.S. senators and visiting dignitaries. In 2006, she was promoted to the rank of sergeant and was assigned to the department’s Communications Division.

In January 2010, she was promoted to lieutenant and was assigned to the House Division. In 2012, Ms. Pittman was one of the first female African American supervisors to attain the rank of captain. While serving as captain, she was assigned to the Capitol Division as the executive officer.

As a commander, she supervised more than 400 officers and civilians and led the efforts to provide the security footprint for the 2013 presidential inauguration.

In December 2015, Ms. Pittman was promoted to inspector and was assigned to the Office of Accountability and Improvement, where she was the chief of police’s designee in responding to all the department’s civilian and sworn disciplinary appeals and grievances.

In June 2018, she was promoted to deputy chief and was named bureau commander for the Command and Coordination Bureau.

Ms. Pittman graduated from Morgan State University with a Bachelor of Science in psychology in 1991. She earned her master’s degree in public administration from Marist College in Poughkeepsie, New York, in May 2019, and began working toward her Ph.D. in public administration from West Chester (Pennsylvania) University.

On Saturday, Morgan University President David Wilson said, “This appointment is notable for our nation and our university, as she will be the first woman and first African American to hold the post of leading the USCP.” Current Dorchester County, Maryland, board of education member Laura Layton wrote on Facebook, “I taught her. Graduate of C-SD!! So proud of her. Incredible young woman.”

Teacher Mike Hughes wrote, “I remember Yogi from high school, just wanted to make sure it was the same one! Awesome! Don’t know whether I’m happy or scared to death for her, but represent for Groove!!!”

In February 2020, Ms. Pittman came from Washington to speak at a Black History Month event at Dorchester Center for the Arts.

She told the audience she came from a family of modest means and had lost both her parents by the time she reached her early teens. But rather than surrender to difficulties and misfortune, she continued to expect the best from herself, while having positive role models to help show her the way, she said.

“I never had to look past my living room to know what courage looked like,” she said.

“Dorchester County, your heritage is so great, so rich. All you have to do is carry on its traditions,” then-Assistant Chief Pittman said. And to the young people present, she added, “It is your right to be successful.”

Her predecessor’s tenure was brief. Mr. Sund took over in May 2019, as the Capitol police had been dealing with claims of communication failures, gender discrimination and misconduct met with light punishment.

As part of the legislature, the force is not subject to Freedom of Information Act requests.

Acting Chief Pittman’s promotion survived not only the breach of the Capitol, but also the resistance of the officers she now commands.

After the events of Jan. 6, the U.S. Capitol Police Labor Committee issued a statement calling for Mr. Sund’s resignation and for the resignations of Assistant Chief Chad Thomas and Assistant Chief Pittman. The committee is part of the Fraternal Order of Police.

Union Chairman Gus Papathanasiou said in the statement, “Once the breach of the Capitol building was inevitable, we prioritized lives over property, leading people to safety. Not one member of Congress or their staff was injured. Our officers did their jobs. Our leadership did not.”

Mr. Papathanasiou cited the June protest planning, which saw the coordinated response of U.S. Capitol police, the D.C. National Guard, the Metropolitan police and others, as a successful safeguarding of the entire Capitol complex.

“We have several protestors dead, multiple officers injured and the symbol of our democracy, the U.S. Capitol, desecrated. This should never have happened,” he said. “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.”

He said the lack of communication with officers Jan. 6 was “not an anomaly.”

“It is part of a pattern we have seen from the current USCP leadership. Until we have a leadership team at USCP that is willing to work hand-in-hand with the Union and our officers as one team, we will continue to have systemic failures.”