(Washington, DC) – The executive director of the District of Columbia’s Office of Police Complaints (OPC), Philip K. Eure, recently testified at a public oversight hearing before the District Council’s Public Safety and Justice Committee on issues related to Metropolitan Police Department (MPD) internal investigations and interventions regarding police officer misconduct.
OPC, which is governed by the Police Complaints Board (PCB), was created under District law to serve as an independent forum to resolve non-criminal misconduct complaints filed by citizens against MPD and D.C. Housing Authority Office of Public Safety (OPS) officers.
Eure pointed out in his testimony on January 24, 2014, that each year, OPC issues an annual report detailing the volume, types, and outcomes of citizen complaints that are filed with and resolved by OPC. Eure also noted that MPD does not provide the public with the same level of information regarding citizen complaints that MPD investigates.
Official data show that year after year, OPC is consistently given the responsibility of handling significantly more complaints against MPD officers than are handled by MPD through its own internal affairs process. These statistics point up the critical need for an agency such as OPC, which is independent of MPD, to be an option available to the public to investigate and otherwise handle citizen complaints against the police.
A 2008 policy recommendation issued by PCB urged the enactment of legislation to authorize the agency to monitor and publicly report on the universe of citizen complaints filed against MPD officers, whether investigated by MPD or OPC. In the intervening years, although members of the Public Safety and Justice Committee have introduced legislation on at least two occasions that would have achieved this goal, no such bill has ever been voted on by the full District Council. Most recently, the “Police Monitoring Enhancement Act of 2013” was introduced a year ago.
Eure urged the District Council to again take up police monitoring legislation this year. If enacted, there would be a larger universe of complaints to analyze for the purposes of detecting patterns or trends in police misconduct. This, in turn, would result in more targeted reforms in recruitment, hiring, promotions, and training at MPD. As a result, the public would have more confidence in the police, and policing in the District of Columbia would improve.
According to Eure, “This kind of transparent reporting provides valuable insight into how law enforcement officers in the District interact with residents and visitors to the nation’s capital. Moreover, it can lead to valuable police reforms.”
For more information on PCB’s 2008 policy recommendation, visit http://policecomplaints.dc.gov/node/174482. To view the Police Monitoring Enhancement Amendment Act of 2013, visit www.dccouncil.washington.us.