McDuffie Offers Provision to Define Police Use-of-Force Measures

McDuffie Offers Provision to Define Police Use-of-Force Measures

The new language requires consideration of whether the person had a deadly weapon and if the police attempted de-escalation tactics

Washington, D.C. – In light of the tragic deaths of George Floyd and Breonna Taylor and countless more black Americans at the hands of law enforcement, the District of Columbia Council is expected to take up emergency legislation on June 9, 2020. Councilmember McDuffie has drafted a provision he hopes to include that would establish when the use of force or use of deadly force by a police officer may be justifiable or not. The provision would also define specific factors that must be considered when determining whether an exercise of force or deadly force is reasonable.

An additional provision that is included in the proposed emergency legislation as circulated would prohibit police officers from viewing body worn camera (BWC) footage prior to documenting their recollections in a report. A similar provision was removed from the original BWC law authored by Councilmember McDuffie in 2015 by a last-minute amendment from former Councilmember Jack Evans.

With the release, Councilmember McDuffie said:

“As all caring people are, I am heartbroken and angered by the continued killing of black people at the hands of law enforcement — and it must stop.

I am proud of the reform efforts I have led since joining the Council, such as drafting and passing the Neighborhood Engagement Achieves Results Act (NEAR Act) and the police body camera law. Still, this moment and the thousands of District residents peacefully protesting police violence require additional action to improve our laws and advance justice in our city.

The use of force provision will help delineate what is now an unclear standard and increase the public’s trust in the police by increasing police accountability.

The amendment to the BWC law would return an important provision that would prohibit officers from reviewing BWC footage before writing an initial report involving a use of force.

There remains much work ahead of us, but I know that if we can come together with a sense of empathy and purpose, we can move our city and country forward.”

Councilmember McDuffie served as Chair of the Council Committee on the Judiciary from 2015-16, leading the Council through the passage of the landmark criminal justice reform bill, the NEAR Act. The NEAR Act introduced a public health approach to crime prevention to the District of Columbia and included recommendations from President Obama’s Task Force on 21st Century Policing (2015). The current legislation, The Comprehensive Policing and Justice Reform Emergency Amendment Act of 2020, consists of several provisions from across the Council and is being drafted by Councilmember Charles Allen, Chair of the Council Committee on Public Safety.