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.