Councilmember Charles Allen's Comprehensive Police Reform Bill Passes Council Unanimously

The Council of the District of Columbia unanimously passed Councilmember Charles Allen's the Comprehensive Policing and Justice Reform Emergency Act.

“The protests to the murders of George Floyd in Minneapolis, Breonna Taylor in Louisville, and cruelly countless others  are evidence of the immediate need to take action,” said Councilmember Allen. “Forceful, yet peaceful demonstration has created this moment, and the Council must act to move the cause forward.” 

Councilmember Allen continued: “Collectively, we have an opportunity and an obligation to try and meet this moment, and working with many of my colleagues, we’ve crafted a strong package. But I want to make clear that this isn’t the end of reforms. The emergency legislation is one act we can take, along with many others through the budget and further legislative reforms.”

This post has been updated based on changes to the circulated draft on Monday evening and voted on. The bill was amended to modify to forbid future police contracts from addressing disciplinary measures, bans the use of tear gas and other militarized gear, and created a commission to review police reform more broadly. Those changes are not reflected below.

Summary of the “Comprehensive Policing and Justice Reform Emergency Amendment Act of 2020”

TITLE I: Improving Police Accountability and Transparency

Subtitle A: Prohibiting the Use of Neck Restraints

  • Makes the use of neck restraints (also known as “chokeholds”) by any law enforcement or special police officer unlawful, in addition to the failure to render, or cause to be rendered, first aid or to request EMS services if a neck restraint was applied (neck restraints are already prohibited by MPD policy, but the current statute permits them in some circumstances)

Subtitle B: Improving Access to Body-Worn Camera Video Recordings

  • Prohibits MPD officers from reviewing their body-worn camera (“BWC”) recordings and BWC recordings that have been shared with them to assist in writing initial reports
  • Requires the Mayor to release:
    • The name and BWC recordings of any officer who committed an officer-involved death or serious use of force within 72 hours after the incident
    • By July 1, 2020, the names and BWC recordings of all officers who have committed an officer-involved death since the BWC Program was created in late 2014
  • Requires MPD to preserve BWC recordings related to a Council Committee on the Judiciary and Public Safety request or investigation
  • Requires MPD to provide the Council Committee on the Judiciary and Public Safety with unredacted BWC recordings within 72 hours after the Committee makes a request, regardless of the nature of the incident or subjects depicted

Subtitle C: Office of Police Complaints Reforms

  • Requires that all members of the Police Complaints Board, the Office of Police Complaints’ governing body, be unaffiliated with law enforcement
  • Expands the Board membership to include members from each Ward
  • Allows the Executive Director of the Office of Police Complaints to investigate evidence of abuse or misuse of police powers they identify, even though it may not have been specifically alleged in the complaint; this expanded authority expressly includes circumstances in which an officer failed to (1) intervene in or subsequently report any use of force incident in which they observe another officer -- including an MPD officer – using excessive force or engaging in any type of misconduct, or (2) immediately report to their supervisor any violations of MPD rules and regulations committed by any other MPD officer, and each instance of their use of force or a use of force committed by another MPD officer

Subtitle D: Use of Force Review Board Membership Expansion

  • Expands the list of Use of Force Review Board voting members to include the Executive Director of the Office of Police Complaints, three civilian members appointed by the Mayor and confirmed by the Council – one who has experienced the use of force by a law enforcement officer and one member of the DC Bar in good standing – and two members appointed by the Council – one with subject matter expertise in criminal justice policy and one with subject matter expertise in law enforcement oversight or the use of force

Subtitle E: Anti-Mask Law Repeal

  •  Reduces unnecessary interactions with law enforcement by repealing the District’s law criminalizing mask wearing for certain purposes

Subtitle F: Limitations on “Consent” Searches

  • Strengthens procedural justice in cases where a police officer’s search of a person or their vehicle, home, or property is based only on the person’s consent to the search – also known as a “consent” search; the officer would have to explain that the person is being asked to consent and that they can refuse the search

Subtitle G: Mandatory Continuing Education Expansion; Reconstituting the Police Officers Standards and Training Board

  • Requires continuing education for MPD officers on: racism and white supremacy; limiting the use of force; de-escalation tactics; prohibiting the use of neck restraints; obtaining consent from subjects of police consent searches; and the duty to report and information on how to report suspected misconduct by another law enforcement official
  • Revives the long-dormant Police Officers Standards and Training Board (“POST Board”), the District board that establishes minimum application and appointment criteria for MPD officers and reviews MPD’s initial training and continuing education programs
  • Expands the POST’s membership to include the Director of the Office of Police Complaints and community representatives appointed by the Mayor with expertise in police oversight, juvenile justice reform, criminal defense, gender-based violence, LGBTQ services, policy, or advocacy, and violence prevention or intervention
  • Requires the POST to be stood up with new membership by September 1, 2020
  • Requires the POST to establish minimum application and appointment criteria for MPD that includes, for applicants with prior service in another law enforcement or public safety agency, a review of any alleged or sustained misconduct or discipline imposed by their prior employer

Subtitle H: Identification of MPD Officers during First Amendment Assemblies as Local Law Enforcement

  • Requires the uniforms and helmets of MPD officers policing First Amendment assemblies to identify the officers as local law enforcement

Subtitle I: Preserving the Right to Jury Trial

  • Explicitly provides for jury trials for certain assault offenses where the victim is a law enforcement officer, thereby fixing the U.S. Attorney’s circumvention of the NEAR Act’s assault on a police officer jury trial requirement

Subtitle J: Repeal of Failure to Arrest Crime

  • Repeals an archaic offense for police officers who fail to arrest when a crime is committed in their presence; this statute – the only one of its kind left in the country – criminalizes diversion, impedes police officers’ discretion (even for the lowest-level crimes), and conflicts with other existing laws like field arrests

Subtitle K: Officer Discipline Reforms

  • Expands MPD’s disciplinary authority in cases involving (1) serious use of force or (2) indicating potential criminal conduct by a sworn member or civilian employee by extending the time before which the Department must bring a corrective or adverse action from 90 to 180 days
  • *Allows the Chief of Police to increase a disciplinary penalty

Subtitle L: Use of Force Reforms

  • Strengthens the District's use of force standards by clearly defining non-deadly and deadly force, protecting residents and visitors by limiting the situations in which non-deadly or deadly force can be used, and elaborating upon the standard for judges and juries to use when reviewing cases that involve claims of excessive force

Subtitle M: Restrictions on the Purchase and Use of Military Weaponry

  • Restricts the ability of District law enforcement agencies to acquire or request certain military equipment like armored vehicles, grenades, or drones; requires agencies who currently possess such equipment to return it

 TITLE II: Building Safe and Just Communities

Subtitle A: Restore the Vote

  • Enfranchises individuals currently incarcerated for felonies who are in the Department of Corrections’ care but the Bureau of Prisons’ legal custody (i.e. those who are back from BOP temporarily on appeal or other motions)
  • *Requires DOC to notify newly enfranchised residents of their right to vote
  • Requires the Board of Elections to provide every eligible DOC resident with a voter registration form, voter guide, and mail-in ballot for the November 3 General Election

Subtitle B: Department of Corrections Home Confinement Evaluation Requirement

  • Requires the Department of Corrections, as a Bureau of Prisons (“BOP”) contracting facility, to evaluate individuals in its care – but in the legal custody of the BOP – for home confinement and recommend them to the Bureau of Prisons, pursuant to the authority in federal law and recently expanded in the CARES Act, and report to the Council Committee on the Judiciary and Public Safety on its progress

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