By John Stanard and Anna Sineva
On July 7, 2020, the DC Council passed a revision to police reform legislation it had passed in early June. My colleague (Anna Sineva) has been following this closely and monitored the proceedings (all 10 hours) as they unfolded. The following is our summary of key points from the revised and updated legislation.
The June version of this police reform bill was an emergency piece of legislation, and so is this latest one. This means that these provisions will remain in effect until the Council passes legislation to make these provisions permanent—which the Council has express strong interest in doing.
Highlights from the July 7 Legislation
Below are important highlights from this legislation. Use the link at the end of this post to view the bill.
Gives the right to vote back to the incarcerated population of the district, including the DC Jail population and those in BOP custody.
Consent searches: The bill limits MPD’s use of “stop and frisk.” Officers must now let anyone they stop know that a search is a voluntary matter and that he/she may refuse the search.
It was noted during the hearing that this practice by MPD is quite common in many areas of the district. People of color comprise 46% of the population but they comprise 70% of the people stopped and searched by the police.
Use of deadly force: The bill preserves the standard for the use of deadly force such that it be necessary and as a last resort.
Non-deadly force: Currently, there is no standard for ‘non-deadly force’. The Council wants to establish a such a standard by codifying common law and existing practices, holding hearings, and getting data from the Office of Police Complaints. They intend to include a standard for using non-deadly force in the permanent police reform legislation to come.
The bill prohibits the purchase of certain military weapons and equipment by MPD.
The right to a jury trial in the case of an Assault on a Police Officer. Such cases (abbreviated as APOs) most commonly result in penalties imposed on civilians. Many of these cases have to do with resisting arrest. Previously, the Council passed a bill that established that a person so charged with Assault on a Police Officer was entitled to a jury trial. Subsequently, the DC US Attorney’s office has stopped charging for APO and started charging these as Simple Assault cases instead, because there is no jury trial for Simple Assault. The new bill closes this loophole by making it clear that a person charged with assault can have a jury trial.
Expands the Police Complaints Board to include ward representation.
Creates a Civilian Police Complaints Board for the Metro Transit Police.
Explicitly bans the use of tear gas, stun grenades, rubber bullets and other such tools against peaceful demonstrations or protests.
Prohibits the deployment of police in riot gear in response to any peaceful demonstrations unless there is an immediate risk to officers of significant physical injury.
Establishes a Police Reform Commission comprised of representatives from an array of government agencies and civil society organizations, to examine and policing practices in DC and provide recommendations for revising and reforming DC police.