D.C. Auditor Releases Report on MPD Use of Force

January 28, 2016

WASHINGTON, D.C.  – D.C. Auditor Kathy Patterson released a new report, The Durability of Police Reform: The Metropolitan Police Department and Use of Force, 2008-2015 at a press conference today. The report, authored by former U.S. Department of Justice Inspector General Michael R. Bromwich, evaluates whether the Metropolitan Police Department (MPD) has remained a “best in class” agency on use of force policy and practice. The review includes 38 recommendations to strengthen both policy and practice so that MPD continues to serve as a national leader. Speakers at the press conference, in addition to Patterson and Bromwich, included Police Chief Cathy Lanier and D.C. Council Chairman Phil Mendelson.

“Beyond the specific findings and recommendations, this review clearly demonstrates that it is possible to enact and sustain reform when a commitment to such action is made at the highest leadership levels,” said Patterson. “This review and recommendations also underscore the importance of independent oversight by civilian entities, such as the Office of the District of Columbia Auditor, to ensure that the commitment to policing reform is sustained over time.”

This is the first detailed look at the durability over time of use of force reforms mandated by the Department of Justice (DOJ) pursuant to its legal authority to investigate local police departments on civil rights issues, including use of force. The District entered into a voluntary agreement with DOJ to review MPD’s use of force after a 1998 series in The Washington Post documented more officer-involved fatal shootings in the District over a 4-year period than in other, larger departments. Bromwich served as the Independent Monitor for a Memorandum of Agreement (MOA) between the District and DOJ, initiated by former Mayor Anthony Williams and former Chief of Police Charles Ramsey, and in effect from 2001 to 2008.

The current review found that MPD and its overall policies on use of force generally continue to be consistent with best practices in policing and with the provisions of the earlier MOA. At the same time, it identified some deficiencies that need to be addressed.

“We have seen much that is positive in our review of MPD, and most importantly, we have seen no evidence that excessive use of force has reemerged as a problem,” added Bromwich, Managing Principal of The Bromwich Group. “Our review comes at a time of intense national focus on the relationship between local law enforcement agencies and the communities they serve. We hope other jurisdictions, including those currently under siege on use of force issues, will look at this report both as a source of optimism that major reforms can be implemented successfully, but also as a reminder that the gains of such reforms need to be carefully guarded and preserved to ensure they do not erode over time.”