Nearly every person Metropolitan Police Department officers used force on in 2019 was Black. And officers reported use of force incidents the most in Northeast and Southeast neighborhoods, like Trinidad, Anacostia, and Barry Farm. While Black-majority neighborhoods accounted for the highest proportion of incidents, White-majority neighborhoods—like Chevy Chase, Cleveland Park, and Georgetown—accounted for the lowest.
Officers who were White, male, and younger reported using force at a higher rate. And community members who were Black, male, and younger were the targets of such force at a higher rate. For context, Black residents make up 46 percent of D.C.’s total population.
Thanks to the third annual report from the Office of Police Complaints, we know more about how often MPD officers use force on D.C. residents and exactly whom it is used against. This data helps to explain months-long protests this summer in D.C. over police brutality and anti-Black racism. Demonstrators often chanted the names of individuals killed by cops, and death is the worst manifestation of misconduct. In interviews, some protesters recounted their own traumatizing run-ins with local police.
According to the 64-page report, which was published on Tuesday, there were 1,246 incidents where MPD officers reported using force in 2019, just four more incidents than in 2018. The 2019 report offers some progress as compared to the 2018 report, which noted a 20 percent increase in incidents as compared to 2017. But the number of incidents has significantly increased since 2015, by 84 percent. And the racial trends of past reports are described yet again in the 2019 report.
A total of 1,220 officers reported use of force in 2019, or more than one out of every three MPD officers. 67 percent of those officers reported using force in one or two incidents in 2019. But eight percent of officers (or 98 cops total) reported doing so five times or more within a year. Four officers reported using force 10 times or more, and were assigned to the Fifth and Seventh Districts, which consist of neighborhoods that are predominately Black and/or lower income.
Tactical takedowns were the most frequent type of force reported last year, representing 50 percent of the total 2,471 reported uses of force. The second most common was control holds, accounting for 20 percent. Officers reported pointing a firearm at an individual in 15 percent of the total uses of force.
MPD argues it has a use of force framework and training. The department’s use of force General Order says that “MPD members shall use the minimum amount of force that the objectively reasonable officer would use … to effectively bring an incident or person under control.”
MPD did not respond to a request for comment on the report, nor did it respond to this reporter’s inquiry on how the department intends to reverse disturbing trends.
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