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Police Complaints Board Recommends Elimination of Mandatory Bike Registration in the District

Thursday, August 4, 2005

The Police Complaints Board (PCB) today submitted a report and recommendations to Mayor Anthony A. Williams, the Council of the District of Columbia, and Metropolitan Police Department (MPD) Chief Charles H. Ramsey regarding the enforcement of the city's bicycle regulations.

A number of complaints received by the Board suggest that MPD officers have enforced mandatory bicycle registration in Washington, DC, sporadically and improperly, raising questions about possible bias in these stops. The complaints also allege that some MPD officers have used the bicycle registration requirement as a pretext to harass or punish members of the public. The Board is concerned that the complaints it has received may be an indicator of a more widespread problem that should be addressed.

Beyond the specific complaints, the Board believes that most residents of the District and bicycle owners are unaware of the bicycle registration requirement, which originally was implemented to help return bicycles to their owners in the case of loss or theft. The Board believes that the original purpose of the requirement can still be fulfilled, while eliminating some of the potential problems, by making bicycle registration voluntary, as is the case in most neighboring jurisdictions in Maryland and Virginia.

"A problem exists in the decades-old bike registration law in Washington, DC," said Philip K. Eure, the executive director of the Office of Police Complaints (OPC). "Our agency's solution would allow people to register and protect their bicycles, while also reducing the potential for selective or biased enforcement against those who choose not to register."

The Board also proposed that MPD should collect and analyze data on bicycle stops as part of MPD's biased policing project and increase officer training on the scope of the District's bicycle laws.

PCB issued the report and recommendations pursuant to its statutory obligation to, where appropriate, make recommendations to the Mayor, the Council, and the Chief of Police "concerning those elements of management of the MPD affecting the incidence of police misconduct, such as the recruitment, training, evaluation, discipline, and supervision of police officers."

PCB is OPC's governing body. PCB and OPC together form the District of Columbia's independent police accountability agency. The agency's primary mission is to investigate and resolve inPidual police misconduct complaints filed by the public against MPD and DC Housing Authority Police Department (DCHAPD) officers.

Policy Recommendations for Bike Stops

For additional information or questions regarding the report and recommendations, please contact OPC's executive director, Philip K. Eure, at (202) 727-3838.