(Washington DC) The Police Complaints Board (PCB), the governing body of the Office of the Police Complaints (OPC), today issued a report and set of recommendations to Mayor Vincent C. Gray, the Council of the District of Columbia (District Council), and Metropolitan Police Department (MPD) Chief Cathy L. Lanier urging MPD to implement changes that will improve the safety of bicyclists as well as relations between officers and those who ride bikes in the District.
In February 2011, the District Council’s Committee on Public Safety and the Judiciary held a public hearing on police enforcement of pedestrian and bicycle safety laws. A number of public witnesses at the hearing expressed views that many MPD officers are not interviewing bicyclists injured in bicycle-motor vehicle crashes, are inadequately trained on the District’s bike-related regulations, and do not vigorously enforce the laws prohibiting drivers from stopping, standing, or parking in bike lanes. Some of these concerns were also included in complaints lodged with OPC.
After conducting a review of MPD policies and practices, PCB recommends that the police department revise its written policy regarding traffic crashes to allow officers to leave crash investigations open until all necessary statements from witnesses and parties have been obtained. Officers should also be required to document the reasons for any missing statements.
The Board further proposes improved training for MPD officers on bicycle safety to eliminate any improper enforcement of the bicycle regulations. PCB urges MPD to solicit input from bicycle advocacy groups when revising the Department’s training.
Finally, to address concerns about tension and misunderstanding between bicyclists and police officers, PCB recommends that MPD increase its involvement in the District’s Bicycle Advisory Council (BAC), a task force that provides guidance to the city on bicycling issues. The Board also suggests that BAC take more steps to engage the public and actively advise MPD on bicycling matters.
“It’s important for those in the bicycling community to know that their concerns are being proactively addressed,” said Philip K. Eure, OPC’s executive director. “Better training, revised policies, and more effective communication can lead to improved cyclist-officer relations and fewer complaints against MPD members.”
To view a full copy of PCB’s full report and recommendations, visit our website at www.policecomplaints.dc.gov.