(Washington, DC) – The Police Complaints Board (PCB), the governing body of the Office of the Police Complaints (OPC), today submitted a report and recommendations to Mayor Vincent C. Gray, the Council of the District of Columbia, and Metropolitan Police Department (MPD) Chief Cathy L. Lanier urging better guidance for off-duty MPD officers engaged in traffic enforcement.
Over the years, OPC has received complaints from motorists alleging that MPD officers who were off duty, out of uniform, and driving either their personal vehicles or police vehicles made stops for minor traffic violations or for traffic incidents in which the officers were personally involved. Such actions can contribute to a sense of mistrust of police officers and lead to concerns that some off-duty officers use their police authority to further personal ends rather than public safety.
In reviewing MPD directives governing the traffic enforcement responsibilities of off-duty officers, OPC found that some policies lack clarity and provide insufficient guidance to officers. The agency also discovered that MPD does not have a comprehensive policy generally setting forth standards of conduct for off-duty officers engaged in law enforcement.
To that end, PCB recommended in its report that MPD revise its current policies to clarify when off-duty officers should engage in traffic enforcement. PCB also proposed that MPD consider including in an existing policy, or creating as part of a separate protocol, overall standards of conduct for off-duty officers.
PCB further recommended in its report that MPD conduct training on the revised directives in an effort to prevent any actual or perceived abuses of authority by off-duty police. Lastly, PCB urged MPD to adopt additional reporting requirements for off-duty officers who interact with the driving public to ensure that these incidents are documented and can be reviewed by MPD supervisors.
“The public needs to know that off-duty officers will act prudently and responsibly when making traffic stops and engaging in other police-citizen interactions,” said Philip K. Eure, OPC’s executive director. “Policy improvements, better training, and increased reporting requirements will increase accountability and the level of public trust, and ensure that off-duty officers better carry out their enforcement obligations.”
To view a full copy of PCB’s full report and recommendations, visit our website at www.policecomplaints.dc.gov.