Councilman Andy King, left, holds a sign as he marches with dozens of protestors just west of the Outerbridge Crossing in New Jersey on their way to Washington, Monday, April 13, 2015. The group, which plans to reach the nations capital next week, is protesting numerous police shootings across the nation. (AP Photo/Northjersey.com, Kevin R. Wexler)
In the wake of high profile killings such as Walter Scott, Eric Garner, and Michael Brown, use of force by police officers is now a national discussion that has a history in Washington, D.C.
In 1998 the Washington Post reported that the Metropolitan Police Department (MPD) was the deadliest police force in America.
Though MPD’s reputation improved, following the establishment of a Memorandum of Agreement between the city, MPD and Department of Justice in 2001, the agreement was recommended for early termination, ending in 2008, under the condition that the department continues to meet its reporting requirements.
Residents and local organizations remain concerned with the use of force by MPD, which is a conversation MPD is reluctant to have. “We’re not going to discuss our Use of Force policy,” Lt. Sean Conboy of the second district told the AFRO.
Conboy declined to clarify the “less-than-lethal projectiles” regulation of MPD’s “Use of Force” policy which states, “Consistent with the Department’s philosophy of using only the minimum amount of force necessary to control or subdue potentially violent subjects, less-than-lethal projectiles may be used only by authorized members with appropriate specialized training.”
Conboy would not say who the “authorized members” are and whether or not all MPD members are trained to use non-deadly force.
Instead, he said that the policy is clear enough, offering a regurgitation of the policy: “We have non-lethal implements that we can deploy.”
Even with a “Use of Force” policy, a local ABC News station reported video footage from a cell phone that captured several MPD officers aggressively initiating arrests on a married couple, Forrest and Chadon Boggs, on the 1500 block of E Street NE on April 1.
The video shows Chadon being shoved to the ground by an officer after she watched another officer straddle her husband’s back while he was on the ground.
Forrest was accused of spitting on a police car and the couple was charged with assaulting an officer. Both were taken to a hospital and Chadon received four stitches.
The department’s Public Information Office did not return phone calls from the AFRO regarding use of force documentation, police training, and questions on language within the “Use of Force” policy.
National Association Against Police Brutality President Jonathan Newton offered an interpretation of MPD’s less-than-lethal projectile regulation based on his years as a police officer in Georgia, Ala. According to Newton, a University of the District of Columbia law student, each officer must be trained and certified to use non-lethal weapons on their belt – OC spray, ASP baton, and taser gun.
“Every so often, you’re supposed to get recertified on whatever you wear on your belt,” he said. “Depending on the police department, most guys choose what to wear on their belt. If he falls out of certification for use of force on an ASP baton or OC spray, now he’s not really allowed to use that. That creates problems because you have less choices to use. Now all he has is lethal force and some hand cuffs.”
Stating that use of force policies are difficult to enforce without video recordings, Newton is a proponent of body cameras within the MPD and elsewhere.
In Slager’s case, who has since been terminated from the North Charleston Police Department and charged with murder, Newton said the ex-officer did what others have done but gotten away with. “The wheels of justice are moving not because another unarmed Black man was shot and killed by another White officer,” he said. “The wheels of justice are moving because an unarmed Black man was shot and killed by another White officer and it was caught on video.”
According to American Civil Liberties Union of the Nation’s Capital Policy and Advocacy Director Seema Sadanandan, the MPD may be defensive over its “Use of Force” policy. “I think that what is cause for concern is the aggressive enforcement of low level offenses in the Black community,” she said. “I think that there is certainly something broken in our local justice system. Use of force is certainly an issue.”