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Police Complaints Board Recommends Steps to Address MPD Enforcement of the District’s Window Tint Law and Allegations of Racial Profiling

Thursday, November 21, 2013

Police Complaints Board Recommends Steps to Address MPD Enforcement of the District’s Window Tint Law and Allegations of Racial Profiling

Proposals seek to promote fairness and constitutional policing

(Washington, DC)  – The District of Columbia’s Police Complaints Board (PCB), the governing body of the Office of Police Complaints (OPC), today submitted a report and set of recommendations to Mayor Vincent C. Gray, the Council of the District of Columbia, and Metropolitan Police Department (MPD) Chief Cathy L. Lanier proposing a review of the city’s vehicle window tint law in order to address concerns about how it is enforced and the potential for biased policing.

From 2007 through 2012, OPC received 77 complaints from Washington, D.C., Maryland, and Virginia motorists regarding MPD’s enforcement of the District’s window tint law during traffic stops.  Approximately 10,880 citations were issued to drivers during this period for having windows on their vehicles that were supposedly too dark.  In some cases, motorists from other states complained that they should not be ticketed for a violation of District law when their vehicles were in compliance with their home states’ requirements. 

A small number of out-of-state drivers expressed concern over MPD officers’ refusal to accept official documentation that their vehicles were equipped with tinted windows to accommodate a medical condition. 

There were also complaints involving allegations of racial or geographic profiling.  Upon a closer examination of the window tint complaints received from 2007 through 2012, PCB found that 97% of the complaints received were filed by African American motorists.   All but one of the 77 complaints were based on traffic stops that occurred east of Rock Creek Park. 

In addition, upon a review of the MPD’s policies and training, PCB found that the Department does not provide adequate instruction to its officers about the procedures for enforcing the window tint law.

To address concerns about varying tint standards across the Washington, D.C., metropolitan area, medical documentation requirements, how the window tint law is enforced, and the potential for biased policing, the Police Complaints Board recommends, among other things, that:

  • The Mayor direct the District Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) to form a task force with MPD, OPC, and other District stakeholders to conduct a complete review of the law and propose amendments as necessary;
  • MPD conduct an analysis of window tint citations issued and report its findings to the DMV-led task force as well as the Fair and Inclusive Policing Task Force, the MPD-chaired committee responsible for ensuring that the Department provides bias-free police service; and 
  • MPD issue new policies that will provide officers with clearer guidance on the proper methods of enforcing the District’s window tint law.

“The District has a responsibility to ensure that discretionary traffic stops are conducted in a way that promotes public and officer safety but without the taint of racial bias,” said Philip K. Eure, OPC’s executive director.  “Analyzing the impact that varying tint standards have on motorists from other states and revising MPD’s enforcement procedures will help assure the public that the nation’s capital is committed to fair and effective policing.”

To view a full copy of PCB’s full report and recommendations, visit our website at www.policecomplaints.dc.gov.