#BlackLivesMatter so our policy should show it: A list of DC area legislative proposals
Updated: Jun 15, 2021
This is a moment in American History that will be talked about for years to come.
Ever since George Floyd was killed by the Minneapolis police during an arrest for allegedly using a counterfeit bill, our nation has seen civil unrest not seen since the civil rights movement of the 1960s. In response policymakers across the country have been introducing resolutions, ordinances, and legislation in support of the Black Lives Matter Movement and the Washington Metropolitan Area is no exception.
Unsurprisingly, Washington DC has been the site of a lot of attention in recent months. City workers and local artists in Washington DC painted the words Black Lives Matter in bright yellow letters across 16th Street for two blocks ending at St. John’s Episcopal Church expanding the rift between President Trump and DC Mayor Muriel Bowser. The location for the end of the #BlacklivesMatter not just for its proximity to the White House but because St. Johns Church is the site where President Trump staged a photo-op after officers in riot gear fired tear gas and charged demonstrators to make way for the president and his entourage. Not soon after the Washington, DC City Council unanimously passed an emergency police and justice reform measure. Regarding the bill’s content, as passed, the measure:
Bans chokeholds and neck restraints by police and special police
Requires the release, within 72 hours, of body-worn camera footage after any officer-involved death or serious use of force, requires release of footage from past shootings, and bans officers from reviewing it prior to drafting crime reports
Prohibits use of tear gas, pepper spray, riot gear, rubber bullets and stun grenades by MPD (or federal police while on non-federal land) in response to First Amendment protests
Bans the hiring of officers fired for (or who resigned facing charges of) police misconduct or other serious disciplinary measures
Modifies the composition of the Police Complaints Board, moving from a five-member board with one Metropolitan Police Department representative, to a nine-member board with one member from each Ward, plus an at-large member, and no police representatives.
Repeals the District’s mask ban legislation.
Creates a 20-member Police Reform Commission.
Requires that all MPD personnel working at a First Amendment protest wear identification indicating they are with local (as opposed to federal) law enforcement.
Ensures the right to a jury trial in cases where assaulting a police officer is alleged.
Limits and details what constitutes unlawful police use of force, and how it will be dealt with.
Bans MPD from purchasing military equipment from the federal government.
Requires the Department of Corrections to provide voter registration forms, voter guides, and absentee ballots to everyone in the Department’s care.
Requires the Department of Corrections to conduct a weekly review of all those in its care to determine who might be ready to transition to home confinement.
Clarifies that collective bargaining agreements cannot be used to shield employees from accountability and discipline.
Requires additional training of officers on topics including racism and white supremacy.
The passage of this legislation was met with a lukewarm response by MDPD Police Chief Peter Newsham who stated that he agrees with some of the changes but felt as if the Council acted too fast. Perhaps the most controversial change in the legislation cuts out the role of the labor union by giving the police chief more power to fire officers for misconduct., The legislation states that future contracts “should not be used to shield employees from accountability, particularly those employees who have as much power as police officers,” and must not “restrict management's right to discipline sworn officers.” The police union opposed the legislation and has threatened a “mass exodus” of officers from the department. Mayor Muriel Bowser has indicated that she would sign the legislation but like Police Chief Newsham has remained critical of the procedure of the Council used to pass the bill stated that they should have waited for more public hearing so constituents could weigh in. It should be noted tha tIt requires two votes, and is in effect for 225 days. Like permanent legislation, it must passively lay over before Congress.
· To contact Mayor Bowser about this bill or the Black Lives Matter mural please visit this site for the contact information for her office.
· To contact the DC Council please visit here.
Montgomery County Maryland
Recently Montgomery County Councilmember Will Jawando introduced a resolution that declared racism to be a public health crisis. Councilmember Jawando is not alone in his desire for this recognition. The American Academy of Family Physicians sent a letter to the White House stating that it is time for the United States to officially recognize racism as a public health issue and declare a public health emergency to address the negative impacts racism is having on the physical and mental wellbeing of millions of people.
Councilmember Jawando also introduced legislation changing the use of force policy in the county. The legislation would “require the use of force policy to include certain minimum standards, including standards regarding the use of deadly force, the use of carotid and neck restraints, and required intervention by officers when another officer is violating law or policy. The minimum standards of the policy would not be subject to collective bargaining.” The legislation has precedent since similar policy was in In California 2019 that prevents the use of deadly force except when necessary in defense of human life. The city of Seattle has adopted such reforms as limiting use of deadly force to necessary situations and banning or limiting carotid restraints and neck restraints.
Councilman Jawando’s bill is still being debated but if you live in Montgomery County and want to voice your opinion on this legislation please click here to find you Councilmember contact information or to find your district if you do not know it.
Prince George’s County Maryland
In Prince George’s County, the Board of Education’s Operations, Budget and Fiscal Affairs Committee passed a plan to terminate its contract with the police department and remove School Resource Officers (SROs) from Prince George’s County Public Schools. The committee also voted for $5 million worth of mental health professionals and academic support staff to help students who fall behind grade level in reading. Board of Education decided to table until September 14, 2020. The Board in a press release stated that “additional time was needed to consider the proposal and secure additional input from the community.” When asked about the proposal Dr. Monica Goldson, Chief Executive Officer of Prince George’s County Public School stated that: "It is important that we do take time now to discuss the role of police officers whether they are over-represented in our schools and to find community alternatives to making sure our staff and students are safe, but before we make drastic changes we must first answer some very critical questions that I have been inundated with over the last 24 hours”
NBC 4 reported that some of the questions that need answers moving forward include:
· If you eliminate the officers, who is going to protect the students and staff from an active shooter?
· Will the role of teacher and administrator change if you remove the police?
· What about the voices of the students who like the school resource officer assigned to the school?
The proposal will be brought up again September 14, 2020. Until then, if you have questions about the proposal or want to speak with your school Board member click here. If you need to know what school district you live in to find you School Board Member click here.
Alexandria City, Virginia
In Alexandria Virginia, the City Council voted on a resolution to both condemns systemic racism but also established a Community Police Review Board. The resolution directs the City Manager and the City Attorney to return to the Council by the September 8th City Council meeting with a proposal to establish the board. The US Commission on Civil Rights defines a civilian review board as an entity external to the police department’s internal affairs, and consists of citizens from outside the department, appointed by the mayor or other senior government officials. A civilian review board is generally charged with the duty of reviewing complaints and making recommendations as to disciplinary action after the police department has completed its own investigation and made a disciplinary recommendation.
The Department of Justice found in its review of the effectiveness of Police Review Board noted that oversight bodies in the United States have limited authority. In particular, they do not have the power to discipline officers or establish department policies. In these areas, they are only advisory. Furthermore, oversight bodies have no influence on some police managers or, as a result, many or most line officers.
The City Council’s resolution also mentions gathering data on the demographics of police encounters and stresses the need to adopt a body-worn camera policy for police. Currently, the Alexandria Police Department is evaluating implementation of a pilot camera program and Fiscal Year 2021 budget, which begins on July 1, 2020, includes funding for a dedicated position to evaluate implementation.
As stated above the City Manager and the City Attorney will return to the Council by the September 8th City Council meeting with a proposal to establish the board until then if you have questions about the proposal or want to speak with your City Councilmember or Mayor Justin Wilson click here.
CLPA will be monitoring these policy proposals and will be providing updates as they progress. If you know of any other legislation, resolutions, or proposals you want us to track please contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org