DC council passes sweeping police reforms after George Floyd protests

DC council passes sweeping police reforms after George Floyd protests
© Bonnie Cash

The Washington, D.C. City Council on Tuesday passed a sweeping slate of measures to reform police conduct in the city, as calls grow for reforming law enforcement agencies after the police killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis.

The legislative package, which passed unanimously, included a ban on hiring officers with a history of serious misconduct on other police forces and requires the city to quickly disclose the names of officers who are in situations where they use force against citizens, The Washington Post reported. The city would also be required to disseminate their body-camera footage. 

The package also includes a measure that bans the Metropolitan Police Department from using chemical irritants or rubber bullets to disperse peaceful demonstrations. It also makes it a felony for officers to use a neck restraint against citizens.

ADVERTISEMENT

Floyd, 44, died after a white police officer, Derek Chauvin, pinned his knee to the back of Floyd's neck for nearly nine minutes as Floyd said, "I can't breathe." Chauvin has since been charged with second-degree murder. 

The move from the D.C. Council comes as federal, local and state leaders pledge to examine policing and institute reforms to hold law enforcement agencies more accountable. The pledges arrive as activists in cities around the U.S. demand governments cut funding for the police and divert it to other social services. 

In Minneapolis, nine members of the city council vowed to disband the local police department and replace the office with what members have said will be a new model of public safety. 

D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser reportedly voiced concerns about rushing to pass legislation without public hearings. In a letter to the council, Bowser said she was worried about the amending of laws that "received significant consideration and public input when they were crafted."

"Allowing for community input and vetting by our residents can only serve to refine and strengthen changes to policing in the District," she said. 

While Bowser has the authority to veto legislation, the council has enough votes to override such a step. 

The approval of the legislative package allows the changes to be enacted for 90 days, the Post noted. They can be extended to 225 days with a second vote. Public hearings would need to be held if the laws are to become permanent. 

The D.C. Police Union condemned the list of reforms following its passage. In a statement, the union described the vote as a "disservice" and argued that there was no need for such a sweeping legislative package to be passed in a "hasty and unthoughtful manner."