Read the list of bills awaiting introduction
End mass incarceration and reduce D.C.’s incarceration rate by half over 10 years.
The Council must pass legislation to immediately reduce the population in D.C.’s jails. The conditions of the D.C. jail are inhumane and amount to torture. This danger is experienced largely by Black people – 86 percent of people arrested and 91 percent of people incarcerated in D.C. are Black.
Designed to reduce the incarcerated population by 50% by 2030, this legislation is one major step towards reducing the reach and damage done by the District’s criminal justice system. The bill, which includes recommendations from D.C.’s Task Force on Jails & Justice, will give judges discretion to consider additional information before placing someone in custody. It will also limit the instances in which a person would be sent to jail for a technical violation of probation or for having a substance abuse disorder. It will amend laws that require excessively long sentences and create opportunities to have those sentences revisited after a designated period of time.
Disarm special police, increase their training requirements, confine their authority to specific boundaries, and ensure accountability.
Special Police Officers (SPOs) receive one week of training before they are given a handgun and authorized to make arrests. There is no clear, formal channel for complaints about SPOs and MPD has ignored residents’ attempts to make formal complaints 1,2,3. Comparatively, an MPD officer receives 28 weeks of training and is subject to oversight by MPD internal affairs and the Office for Police Complaints. The mayor has contracted over 7,500 SPOs through the D.C. Housing Authority to patrol public housing, despite having more police per capita than any other American city. Their lack of training and lack of oversight has led to murder, assault, and sexual harassment. The Inspector General’s Office noted the substantial safety risks to the public, SPOs, and the District posed by SPOs working outside of their jurisdictions.
Consistent with recommendations made by the D.C. Police Reform Commission and the Task Force on Jails and Justice, the Council must (1) disarm SPOs, (2) expand the nature of training to cover use of force, de-escalation, and first aid, (3) subject SPOs to the same oversight and accountability required for MPD, and (4) prohibit pursuit beyond property boundaries.
Eliminate D.C.’s dangerous and ineffective police squads and prohibit stop-and-frisk by any officer.
Although the Metropolitan Police Department (“MPD”) routinely denies it, jump-outs (an aggressive form of stop-and-frisk) are a common occurrence.1,2,3,4 Despite evidence that this tactic is not effective at recovering guns or deterring crime, MPD’s Crime Suppression Teams and Gun Recovery Unit, target Black residents with these abusive and often illegitimate searches of their persons and belongings.
Limit police enforcement of traffic and vehicle regulations to circumstances that pose an immediate threat to public safety.
Officers kill unarmed drivers and passengers at a rate of once a week in the United States. Officer training often advances a warrior mindset, instilling in officers fear of the public. As a result, traffic stops can devolve into officer-created jeopardy, where officers put themselves in dangerous situations and then use deadly force to defend against that danger. Given that MPD disproportionately targets Black people for stops and searches and a quarter of police killings of unarmed Black people occurred during traffic stops, the Council must limit officers’ authority to stop drivers.
MPD is tasked not only with handling drivers that pose a threat to public safety, but also with enforcing other regulations. Of the 70 possible infractions for which officers may stop drivers, most can be eliminated or shifted to the D.C. Department of Transportation’s purview, leaving officers to only handle those infractions that present an imminent threat to public safety. This is consistent with recommendations made by the D.C. Police Reform Commission and the Task Force on Jails and Justice.
Limit warrants of homes to searches for evidence of serious or violent crime; require more proof that evidence of a crime will be discovered; ban no-knock and quick-knock raids; protect people in homes from degrading and invasive body searches.
MPD officers have broad discretion to request and execute home search warrants on residents of the District. Too often, the searches result in physical and emotional trauma, property damage, and lawsuits, and rarely uncover evidence. The D.C. Police Reform Commission expressed significant concerns regarding MPD’s search warrant practices and made recommendations consistent with the bill proposed here. Limiting how, when, where, and why officers may obtain and execute search warrants will protect the District’s Black residents who are almost exclusively the targets of MPD’s dangerous search warrant raids. And providing an avenue to compensate raid victims for property damage and injuries is one step towards ensuring the victims are made whole.
End qualified immunity and ensure that citizens can sue and be compensated for police violations of their rights.
Qualified immunity blocks people whose rights have been violated from successfully suing the violating officer unless another officer has already been held liable in an almost identical situation. This creates a dangerous cycle of officers escaping accountability, retaining their jobs, and causing more harm.1,2 It also prevents victims of state violence from being compensated for their injuries.
As the D.C. Police Reform Commission explained, prohibiting the defense of qualified immunity, creating a private right of action, and allowing the District to terminate any officer found to have violated an individual’s rights both gives a remedy to people who have been harmed and provides a mechanism to get a dangerous officer off our streets. Because Black people disproportionately experience harm at the hands of MPD, passing this legislation is a racial justice issue.
Remove criminal legal consequences for acts that are considered crimes only because of a youth’s status as a minor, including truancy, habitually running away, curfew violations, and being habitually disobedient and ungovernable.
Criminalizing youth behavior such as staying out late, missing school, and running away traps children in state systems that cause unjustifiable harm and does not increase public safety. Instead of creating court cases and bringing Black children before a judge for defying authority in typical and non-violent ways, the District should ensure children have sufficient resources to support and protect them in the community.
Consistent with recommendations from the Juvenile Justice Advisory Group, the D.C. Police Reform Commission, and advances in neuroscience, the District should decriminalize status offenses and treat youthful behavior with care rather than state punishment.
Prohibit the government from using evidence resulting from a police contact based on racial profiling.
The Metropolitan Police Department (MPD) conducts more than 10,000 stops per month and disproportionately targets Black people. After being stopped, Black residents are then six times more likely to be searched in comparison to white residents. The numbers are more disparate for children. Black youths are stopped almost 12 times more frequently than their White peers. The stops do not promote safety or recover enough guns to justify their harm. Of the 81,020 stops made by MPD in 2020, only 782 resulted in the seizure of a gun (less than one percent).
The exclusionary rule stands as one of the only methods of deterring police officers from violating the rights of D.C. residents. The proposed legislation, as recommended by the D.C. Police Reform Commission, would (1) make it unlawful for law enforcement to racially profile individuals, (2) disincentivize profiling by keeping any evidence obtained out of court, and, (3) ultimately, provide residents some protection from unlawful stops and searches.