AFRO: Metropolitan Police Department Use of Force Under Review

May 6, 2015
Published May 6, 2015

The Metropolitan Police Department is being evaluated to determine its compliance with use of force provisions established in 2001. A meeting between city officials, the MPD, and the review team was held on April 29 to begin discussions.

In 1998, a series of reports found the MPD to be the nation’s deadliest police force, which prompted a Memorandum of Agreement Crime-Scene-police-siren-lights-001between the District of Columbia, MPD, and the Department of Justice. Outside investigators recommended the agreement for early termination in 2008 after finding the MPD had conformed to more than 80 percent of the stipulations.

But as headlines around the country continue to revolve around allegations of excessive police force, questions have resurfaced about whether the MPD is abiding by the MOA.

“It just seemed to me that enough time had lapsed that we might take a look at best practices and use of force practices,” District of Columbia Auditor Kathy Patterson told the AFRO. “I tend to make the assumption that we are [in compliance with the agreement], but this is an issue that people care about because of the things that are happening nationally. It seemed to make sense to take a look at it again. ”

She hopes to have the process complete by Sept. 1 and hired Michael Bromwich, who served as independent monitor of the MOA, for the review. Bromwich said the MPD was operating under best practices at the time the MOA ended seven years ago, but it is too early in the review process to make any determinations about its continued compliance.

“All indicators are that they’ll be extremely cooperative,” he said of the MPD. “We’re required to produce a public report in a few months. If there are any problems, we’ll point them out. If they’re doing a good job, we’ll point that out. ”

Three officer-involved shootings – one in 2011 and two from 2014 – are being reviewed also.

Sean Blackmon, a member of DC Ferguson’s core organizing group, calls the interactions between the community and MPD “police terror .”

“I describe it as bloody, ” he said. “I would describe it the same as an occupying army in a colonized society. The cops that killed 18-year-old Raphael Briscoe were let off the hook. We’ve seen it even as recently as Christmas Eve; Gregory Gray was killed by the [MPD]. The more they’re really exposed, they’re going to have to change. ”

A large part of Bromwich’s task will be to review several aspects of MPD training- a major component of the MOA. Lt. Sean Conboy said the MPD is “not able to comment on” in an emailed statement to the AFRO.

Among other areas, the developing of use of force curriculum, use of force training, and continuation of training in cultural diversity and community policing will be scrutinized. The MOA also requires MPD to produce quarterly public reports detailing use of force statistics, use of force investigations, and citizen complaints about use of force.

According to the 2013 MPD annual report, police recruits spend 28 weeks in a police academy to undergo training in the use of firearms, laws of arrest, search and seizure, human relations, and ethics among other areas. While the report was unclear whether professional development is mandatory, it is available to MPD members of all ranks and was completed by 3,500 members.

The MPD report acknowledges six incidents of accidental firearm discharges. There were 16 instances of intentional shots fired at citizens, five fatal and seven injuries. Based on the report, there were 34 citizen complaints about excessive force in 2013.

But that same year, the Police Complaints Board reported 172 allegations of force, down from 351 complaints in 2009; 353 complaints in 2010; 280 complaints in 2011; and 206 complaints in 2012.

“When an officer uses any kind of force, there’s a review process,” Patterson said. “We’re not just asking whether the department continues to have its policies in its general orders, but to make sure they’re following them.”

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