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Police Complaints Board Issues Report on MPD Officers’ Use of Improper Language and Conduct

Monday, November 28, 2016

WASHINGTON, DC – The District of Columbia’s Police Complaints Board (PCB), the governing body of the Office of Police Complaints (OPC), today issued a report to Mayor Muriel Bowser, the Council of the District of Columbia and Interim Metropolitan Police Department (MPD) Chief Peter Newsham recommending ways to reduce the incidences of language and conduct complaints.

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 against them.

As a result of the complaints filed with OPC, the Board is concerned about the number of language and conduct violations.  Improper language and conduct behavior exhibited by MPD officers often causes negative interactions between the community and police officers, which in turn decreases trust in the Department.

To that end, PCB recommends the following ways to improve officer communication, foster community relationships, and trust:

  • MPD should 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;
  • MPD should assess whether new training should be implemented for all officers or whether tactical communication or other training would work best; and
  • MPD should update General Order 201.26 “Duties, Responsibilities and Conduct of Members of the Department” and remind officers of its contents and importance.

“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.”

To view a full copy of PCB’s report and sample complaints received by OPC, visit www.policecomplaints.dc.gov.