By Micha Green
AFRO D.C. Editor
mgreen@afro.com

After more than two weeks of protests in the nation’s capital and worldwide, with thousands speaking out against police brutality and systemic racism, on June 9, the District of Columbia Council voted unanimously to pass emergency legislation that will dramatically affect the Metropolitan Police Department (MPD).

The Comprehensive Policing and Justice Reform Emergency Amendment Act of 2020, prohibits neck restraints and chokeholds, has restrictions on police hiring, emphasizes accountability procedures and punishments, and clarifies the meaning of deadly force.

The District of Columbia Council unanimously passed a bill that will require major reform to the Metropolitan Police Department. (Courtesy Photo)

This legislation comes after the world watched a viral video of 46-year-old George Floyd pinned down with Minneapolis Police officer, Derek Chauvin’s, knee on his neck for more than eight minutes.  Chauvin kept his knee on Floyd’s neck until he was on the ground lifeless, and three other officers stood around and did nothing to stop the officer as the suspect, turned victim’s, life slipped away.

In the last subtitle of the emergency act, “Use of Deadly Force By a Police Officer,” Council members were clearly considering the death of Floyd, as well as countless others who similarly experienced excessive force by a police officer. In the new legislation, Metropolitan Police would be required to utilize every means of apprehension available prior to using deadly force with a suspect.

“A Metropolitan Police Department (MPD) officer, after giving notice of his or her identity as such, may use or threaten to use force that is reasonably necessary to accomplish the arrest of an individual suspected of a criminal act who resists or flees from the arrest,” one subsection of the legislation says.  Further, officers can use deadly force “to effect an arrest only if all other reasonable means of apprehension have been exhausted or are unavailable, and where feasible, the officer has given notice of the other officer’s identity and given a warning that deadly force may be used unless resistance or flight ceases.”

In addition, the term “deadly force,” itself is clarified. “’Deadly force’ means force that in the manner of its use or intended use, is capable of causing death or serious bodily injury.

“Across the country, we have witnessed many examples of police officers using deadly force against Black citizens in circumstances where it was not justified.  George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Eric Garner, Philando Castille and Justin Howell are only a few of the numerous instances where Black citizens have been killed as a result of unjustifiable use of deadly force.  To ensure that we do not see these incidents take place in the District of Columbia, this subtitle would require Metropolitan Police Department officers to exhaust every alternative to deadly force when effectuating an arrest.”

Organizations, such as Color of Change, applauded the Council’s emergency legislation surrounding police reform.

“The unanimous passage of the Comprehensive Policing and Justice Reform Emergency Act by the Washington, D.C. City Council is a credit to activists, advocates, and community members in D.C. and around the country. A step in the right direction, the bill prohibits the use of neck restraints, improves measures of accountability and review for police misconduct, and makes survivor-centered changes that will remove the need for law enforcement in every case,” a representative from Color of Change said in a statement sent to the AFRO

Despite the major changes in the emergency legislation, Color of Change and other local activist organizations encourage the Council to continue to listen to the community and demonstrators who are fighting for a fix of the police budget. 

“While we applaud the City Council’s reforms, we urge them to continue to listen to community members and move to overhaul the police budget,” Color of Change said in a statement.  “Ultimately, justice cannot be fully realized until we see a transformation in the ways in which our communities are treated every day. Color Of Change is continuing to fight alongside local activists pushing to reinvest D.C.’s budget to shift resources away from knee-jerk law enforcement and towards the resources our communities need to thrive.”

Micha Green

AFRO Washington, D.C. Editor