The District of Columbia’s Police Complaints Board, the governing body of the Office of Police Complaints (OPC), issued a report Nov. 28 to Mayor Muriel Bowser, the Council of the District of Columbia and Metropolitan Police Department (MPD) Interim Chief Peter Newsham, citing numerous complaints of foul language and misconduct among officers.

police-badge-001

Over the past four years, OPC has received 945 complaints from District residents and visitors alleging use of improper language or conduct by MPD officers. Of the 945 complaints, 190 contained one allegation or more that a MPD officer used profanity during the incident, 639 expressed concerns about the officer’s demeanor or tone, and over 40 had three or more language and conduct complaints.

“Using respectful language and conduct is the cornerstone of building public trust,” said Michael G. Tobin, OPC’s executive director.  “Because of this, it’s imperative that MPD take the necessary steps to reduce officer language and conduct violations.”

These violations, noted the report, show a disregard for an officer’s responsibility to the community as a public servant, and can also damage public trust and perceptions of police legitimacy. Moreover, improper language or conduct can quickly escalate an otherwise minor situation, sometimes to the point of requiring force.

“The report goes a long way in supporting sentiments the public has of law enforcement in D.C. as bullies and antagonists in interactions with the public – especially, young Black males,” Cordell Manley, a Ward 8 resident told the AFRO.  “These are not racial incidents either, because the officers are mostly young and Black as well, so there is a level of training that needs to take place that addresses not just the complaints but also the nature of Black-on-Black anger.”

The Complaint Board, with the release of the report, recommended MPD take steps to emphasize and reinforce the value and importance of proper language and conduct as an inherent part of the culture to all incoming officers; assess whether new training should be implemented for all officers or whether tactical communication or other training would work best; and that the bylaws concerning the duties, responsibilities and conduct of police personnel be updated to remind officers of its contents and importance.

Interim Police Chief Peter Newsham said the department has acknowledged the recommendations, but said officers are nevertheless professional and courteous.