Nearly a year to the day after the murder of George Floyd, a Black man who died when former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin kneeled on Floyd’s neck for nearly 10 minutes, the D.C. Council’s Committee on the Judiciary and Public Safety and the Committee of the Whole convened a day-long joint public hearing to consider police reform efforts and recommendations in the District. Ward 6 Councilmember Charles Allen, who chairs the public safety committee, acknowledged that the uprisings against anti-Black racism and police brutality in the aftermath of Floyd’s death prompted the Council to enact temporary emergency legislation aimed at reforming the Metropolitan Police Department. The proposed laws the Council considered yesterday—the Metropolitan Police Department Requirement of Superior Officer Present at Unoccupied Vehicle Search – No Jump-Out Searches Act of 2021, the Bias in Threat Assessments Evaluation Amendment Act of 2021, the White Supremacy in Policing Prevention Act of 2021, and the Law Enforcement Vehicular Pursuit Reform Act of 2021—aim to make those reforms permanent.
Ward 4 Councilmember Janeese Lewis George, who introduced the Law Enforcement Vehicular Pursuit Reform Act, focused her introduction on instances of police interactions that ended in the death of Washingtonians. Citing the deaths of Karon Hylton Brown and Jeffrey Price, young men who died when the vehicles they were riding collided with police vehicles, Lewis George emphasized the need to prevent those types of collisions from ever occurring again.
Over the course of more than eight hours, councilmembers and public witnesses discussed the proposed legislation as well as the report from the D.C. Police Reform Commission, established over the summer to investigate and recommend ways in which public safety can be improved and expanded, as well as ways actions deemed to improve public safety can actually cause harm. Touching on everything from taking police out of schools to improving 911 dispatches and sending trained teams of mental health professionals to work with those who appear to be in crisis, members of the commission, councilmembers, and the greater public emphasized initiating changes as soon as possible. Watch (or read) the entirety of the proceedings on the Council’s website.
Even national media is taking note of D.C.’s reform efforts. As At-Large Councilmember Elissa Silverman pointed out, the New York Times highlighted Lewis George’s bill that requires the office of the D.C. Auditor to investigate whether any MPD officers have ties to white supremicist groups and new MPD Chief Robert Contee’s support of it.
— Caroline Jones (tips? firstname.lastname@example.org)
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