DC Council voted unanimously for police reform legislation. Now what? - Technical.ly DC

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Jun. 11, 2020 5:55 pm

DC Council voted unanimously for police reform legislation. Now what?

The emergency police reform bill includes a ban on the use of chemical irritants or rubber bullets by law enforcement during peaceful protests and speeds up release of police body cam footage after shootings.
More police officers are being outfitted with body cameras. Do they change officer behavior?

More police officers are being outfitted with body cameras. Do they change officer behavior?

(Photo courtesy of American Civil Liberties Union of Washington)

On Tuesday afternoon, the D.C. Council unanimously passed a police and justice reform bill.

The decision came after protests spread across the nation over the past two weeks due to the death of George Floyd at the hands of a Minneapolis police officer. This bill was drafted and shared last week by Ward 6 Councilmember Charles Allen, who is chair of the Committee on Public Safety and the Judiciary.

The emergency police reform bill includes a ban on the use of chemical irritants or rubber bullets by law enforcement during peaceful protests, speeds up release of police body cam footage after shootings, imposes limits on when officers can use deadly force and more.

For body cams, the department would be required to share footage and the names of officers involved in shootings within 72 hours of an incident. Currently, this is information that is rarely shared publicly. The bill will also allow the council to obtain footage from serious incidents, even from police shootings dating back to 2014 when the Metropolitan Police Department (MPD) starting using body cams, DCist reports.

The D.C. Police Union publicly opposed the reform bill in a statement on Twitter, which says the bill “changes body worn camera policy in such a way that [it] can no longer be used as an evidence collection tool,” among other things.

Though many of the councilmembers were excited to see the bill pass, some are still skeptical after receiving push back on requests to shrink the size of the MPD. The department currently has over 4,000 sworn officers on the payroll with some civilian members. At-Large Councilmember David Grosso proposed shrinking MPD’s force by imposing a cap of 3,500 officers.

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“I support what we’re doing today,” said Ward 5 Councilmember Kenyan McDuffie during the meeting on Tuesday. “But it’s also important that this not be a one-off. There’s a lot that’s been made of the protests … but the police have been over-policing in communities of color for a very long time. There’s only so much you can do to change that culture through legislation.”

The reform bill passed on Tuesday does not directly address how MPD is funded. Mayor Muriel Bowser has been criticized for her proposal to increase MPD’s budget for fiscal year 2021 to $45 million.

Bowser also expressed her concerns about the reform bill the council passed.

The next budget hearing for MPD will take place next Tuesday.

Last week, Bowser also revealed a large Black Lives Matter mural across the street near the White House, in an area that was also renamed Black Lives Matter Plaza.

The Black Lives Matter DC chapter criticized Bowser’s implementations in a statement on Twitter calling for more action to be taken, such as defunding the police. As a response, the group helped paint “defund the police” next to the mural during a protest on June 6.

A more permanent version of the bill will be available in the future when public hearings will be held. As for now, the changes approved on Tuesday have been enacted for 90 days, with a chance to extend to 225 days with a second vote, The Washington Post reported. After a more permanent version of the bill is formed, a public hearing and another vote will need to take place to make these changes into law.

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