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Office of Police Complaints Monitors Protests

Wednesday, March 28, 2007

(Washington, DC) The nation's capital is the site this spring for large protest groups opposed to the Iraq war and the globalization of the world's economy.  The Office of Police Complaints (OPC), under authority granted to its governing body, the Police Complaints Board (PCB), monitored the antiwar protest held in Washington on March 17, 2007. The agency also plans to monitor the anti-globalization protest, which is scheduled for April 14, 2007. These are OPC’s second and third monitoring efforts since the law went into effect.

Two years ago, PCB’s authority was expanded to include the responsibility to monitor and evaluate the Metropolitan Police Department’s (MPD) handling of protests and demonstrations held in the District of Columbia. The law change sought to limit preemptive police actions that could infringe First Amendment expressions and stressed communication and voluntary compliance when the police interact with demonstrators.

A total of 13 OPC employees, including many of the agency’s investigators, monitored MPD’s interactions with thousands of protesters who gathered near the Lincoln and Vietnam Veterans Memorials in Northwest Washington. In addition to the main site of the protest, OPC staff also monitored various points throughout the city and rode with police officials in charge of MPD’s officers.

“The initial reports from our teams that were out on March 17 were very positive,” said Philip K. Eure, OPC’s executive director. “To the extent we saw interactions between MPD officers and protesters, the officers were professional and responded appropriately. But they were otherwise unobtrusive and took steps, like escorting groups and blocking traffic, to ensure that the demonstrators were able to protest.” 

Consistent with its expanded authority, PCB will issue a report on MPD’s handling of both protests after OPC completes its monitoring of the anti-globalization protest in April. The report will be issued to the Mayor, the Council of the District of Columbia, and MPD’s Chief of Police.

For additional information and to view the full text of the First Amendment Rights and Police Standards Act, please select the link below: