Today, DC Councilmember Charles Allen (Ward 6) introduced a bill that proposes moving responsibility for investigating complaints against Special Police Officers to the Office of Police Complaints (OPC), the independent agency which handles investigations and tracks complaints filed against officers of the Metropolitan Police Department.
“When we trust someone with the powers to arrest and carry a firearm, there has to be a strong and independent process for residents to file complaints when that power is abused. Right now, for Special Police Officers, there is no guarantee of an investigation,” said Councilmember Allen, who Chairs the Committee on the Judiciary and Public Safety. “The Office of Police Complaints has distinguished itself nationwide as a professional and neutral agency in service to District residents and police officers – they are the best entity to handle investigations against special police officers as well.”
Special Police Officers are commissioned and licensed in the District of Columbia to make arrests and carry a firearm and are employed to protect a specific property, which often includes housing complexes, private organizations, or government buildings. Licenses are issued by DCRA and Special Police Officers fall under the same regulations applied to Metropolitan Police Officers.
However, investigations into complaints against Special Police Officers are inconsistently conducted and enforced under current regulations that split responsibility between MPD, DCRA, and even the company where the Special Police Officer is employed.
The Office of Police Complaints is an independent agency within the District government that opens investigations into alleged misconduct by Metropolitan Police Officers – including investigating every use of force incident by MPD officers. Like MPD, OPC falls under the oversight of the Committee on the Judiciary and Public Safety. Each year, OPC issues an annual report detailing an overview of its work, including data on the number of investigations and other data points to improve transparency between MPD and District residents.
“Right now, it’s hard to get answers on even the most basic information such as the total number of complaints filed annually against special police officers, let alone ensuring each complaint was investigated,” said Councilmember Allen. “District residents deserve to feel safe, and any bad actors who abuse their policing powers have to know they will be held accountable.”
Additionally, the bill allows the Executive Director of OPC to open a separate investigation if new misconduct is discovered while investigating a complaint, even if that misconduct was not specified by the person filing the original complaint.
The bill was co-introduced by every member of the Council.