The Senate passed a disapproval resolution on May 16 to block the District of Columbia’s police reform law.
The Democratic D.C. council has said the Comprehensive Policing and Justice Reform Amendment Act of 2022, which was passed by the city council last year and took effect in April, aims to boost police accountability and transparency. Republicans have argued that the law puts unnecessary restrictions on police as the city grapples with crime problems.
In a 56-43 vote, Sens. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.), Jon Tester (D-Mont.), Kyrsten Sinema (I-Ariz.), Jeanne Shaheen (D-N.H.), Jacky Rosen (D-Nev.), Maggie Hassan (D-N.H.), Angus King (I-Maine) and Catherine Cortez Masto (D-Nev.) joined 48 Republicans in voting for the resolution. Sen. John Barrasso (R-Wyo.) did not vote. The House passed the disapproval resolution on April 19, when 14 Democrats joined all 215 Republicans in voting for the resolution.
The White House has already said that President Joe Biden would veto the resolution if it came to his desk, where the resolution now heads.
“The president believes we have an obligation to make sure all our people are safe and that public safety depends on public trust. It is a core policy of this Administration to provide law enforcement the resources they need for effective, accountable community policing,” the White House said in an April 17 statement.
“While President Biden does not support every provision of the Comprehensive Policing and Justice Reform Amendment Act of 2022, he will not support congressional Republicans’ efforts to overturn commonsense police reforms such as: banning chokeholds; limiting use of force and deadly force; improving access to body-worn camera recordings; and requiring officer training on de-escalation and use of force,” it stated. “Congress should respect the District of Columbia’s right to pass measures that improve public safety and public trust.”
The D.C. law bans the Metropolitan Police Department (MPD) and other local law enforcement personnel from using chokeholds. It also approves the use of police body camera footage and requires, with a couple of exceptions, the mayor to release such footage with the names of the officers behind the footage where “officers [were] directly involved in the officer-involved death or serious use of force.”
However, the mayor can’t release footage if the next of kin of an officer-involved death or “the individual against whom the serious use of force was used, or if the individual is a minor or unable to consent, the individual’s next of kin” doesn’t agree to its release.
Additionally, the act authorizes District of Columbia Housing Authority Police Department (DCHAPD) members “to make arrests, carry a firearm, and perform other functions normally reserved to members of the Metropolitan Police Department.”
It also allows personnel of D.C.’s Office of the Inspector General (OIG) “to carry a firearm, make warrantless arrests for felony violations of the law, and serve as affiants for search warrants.” The law subjects DCHA and OIG to the same oversight and process that is used in dealing with complaints against MPD officers.
The act would establish a police complaints board consisting of nine members, including a representative from one of D.C.’s eight wards and one at-large member. The members are appointed by the mayor and require confirmation by the D.C. council, which has 90 days to act on the nomination.
If there is no vote on the nominee within that time frame, then the appointee is rejected. The act would strip the mayor’s power to appoint the board’s chairperson, giving it to the board. However, the mayor can remove a board member for cause.
Sen. J.D. Vance (R-Ohio) introduced a motion to put forth the disapproval resolution before the Senate.
“Congress must exert our constitutional authority to keep our nation’s capital safe,” said Vance ahead of the vote. “It’s a disgrace that the capital of the most powerful nation on earth has become so dangerous, but this sad reality is exactly what we should expect when far-left activists are calling the shots.”
In the nation’s capital, according to the Metropolitan Police Department, violent crime is up 13 percent in 2023 compared to the previous year. There has been an 11 percent increase in homicides, a 45 percent rise in sex abuses, a 2 percent increase in assaults with a dangerous weapon, and a 19 percent jump in robberies.
According to the Metropolitan Police Department (MPD), burglaries have decreased 10 percent in Washington this year compared to 2022, but there has been a 30 percent overall increase in property crimes. Motor vehicle thefts have gone up by a staggering 114 percent. There has been a 6 percent rise in thefts from automobiles, a 24 percent jump in other thefts, and a 300 percent increase in arsons.