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Office of Police Complaints Executive Director Sends Letter to D.C. Police Chief Addressing Police Misconduct Settlements Highlighted in Washington Post Article

Wednesday, March 9, 2022

(Washington, DC) – Michael G. Tobin, executive director of the Office of Police Complaints sent the following letter today to D.C. Police Chief Robert J. Contee III expressing concerns about the Metropolitan Police Department having the fifth highest amount of police misconduct claims paid since 2010 as noted in an article published by The Washington Post on March 9:

Robert J. Contee III
Chief of Police
Metropolitan Police Department
441 4th Street, NW, 7th Floor
Washington, DC 20001

Chief Contee:

Today, on the front page of the national edition of The Washington Post was an article “The Hidden Billion Dollar Cost of Police Misconduct”. The article is one of a series highlighting the need for police reform. The article also highlights, in a national forum, the fact that MPD has the fifth highest amount of claims paid in the 25 cities surveyed, several of which have larger populations than the District of Columbia:

“In the District, 65 officers have been named in repeated claims, accounting for $7.6 million of the more than $90 million in claims paid — the fifth-highest overall of the 25 cities surveyed. That total includes $54 million paid on four claims involving officers who were named in no other cases.”

On March 11, 2019, the Police Complaints Board issued Policy Report #19-1 “Using Litigation Data To Improve Policing.” The report recommended:

  1. MPD should establish a program to systematically review litigation data for lawsuits filed against MPD and its members.
  2. MPD should publish public reports, with aggregate information, regarding lawsuits filed against MPD and/or its members, together with the costs associated with the litigation. The reports should include the current state of any interventions, trainings, or policy changes based on the litigation to inform the public that MPD is responsive to issues that are brought to the attention of the department. These reports should be made on a regular basis, at a minimum annually.

As with the majority of the recommendations of the Police Complaints Board, MPD has disregarded this report and has failed to implement the recommendations based upon the information you have provided to us to date. Implementing the recommendations from the Police Complaints Board – comprised of members of our community appointed by the Mayor and DC Council to issue such recommendations, may have prevented MPD from once again being the subject of national scrutiny of its inadequacies in police reform.

Most importantly from my perspective, the failure of MPD to implement the majority of reforms recommended by our community board is indicative of an urgent need to improve the authority of the Police Complaints Board by making such recommendations mandatory rather than optional. Our current system of civilian oversight is clearly not as effective as it should be, and MPD has demonstrated on repeated occasions over many years and several police chiefs that mere recommendations are not sufficient for the department to implement reform measures.

By copy of this letter, I am relaying my concerns to the DC Council.

Sincerely,

Michael G. Tobin
Executive Director