Updated Mar 9, 2023 - Politics & Policy

Scoop: Congress targets D.C. police reforms

D.C. MPD car

Photo: Yasin Ozturk/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images

A new GOP-led effort in Congress would overturn local police reforms in Washington, D.C., that were enacted after the police murder of George Floyd.

Why it matters: A House resolution introduced Thursday would roll back sweeping reforms meant to boost transparency and weaken the police union's hand in disciplinary disputes.

Driving the news: Rep. Andrew Clyde (R-Ga.), who is co-leading the resolution with Rep. Andrew Garbarino (R-N.Y.), called D.C.'s reforms "anti-police legislation" that in part will "exacerbate low morale" and hinder officer recruitment.

Zoom in: Some of the reforms — including a ban on Metropolitan Police Department officers using neck restraints — have been on the books through temporary legislation since the summer of 2020, when protests erupted nationwide over racism and policing.

  • But legislation making those changes permanent — approved by the D.C. Council late last December and currently under congressional review — included several new provisions, some opposed by Mayor Muriel Bowser, who left the bill unsigned.

One provision Bowser objected to is a local watchdog, the Office of Police Complaints, having "unfettered access" to D.C. police records, according to a letter she sent to the council in December 2022.

  • Another provision would make it harder for officers to disperse gatherings that include riots, according to Bowser, who wants to grow D.C.'s police force.

What they're saying: The D.C. Police Union supports overturning the law, saying it "destroys collective bargaining rights" for MPD officers.

An analysis from the D.C. Council's Office of Racial Equity faulted the reforms for not going far enough, concluding that the legislation would "maintain the status quo of racial inequity" in D.C. even as there are some "individual provisions in the bill that will move the District's policing system forward."

The big picture: The latest effort to overturn a D.C. bill comes as part of new Republican scrutiny over the nation's capital. Congress has final say over the city, and local leaders have long sought statehood.

  • Clyde's office tells Axios the new disapproval bill has so far collected 15 co-sponsors.
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