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Police Complaints Board Recommends Steps to Ensure Proper Enforcement of the District’s Taxicab Regulations

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

(Washington, DC) The Police Complaints Board (PCB), the governing body of the Office of Police Complaints (OPC), today submitted a report and recommendations to Mayor Adrian M. Fenty, the Council of the District of Columbia, and Metropolitan Police Department (MPD) Chief Cathy L. Lanier urging the adoption of measures aimed at improving enforcement of regulations applicable to DC taxicab drivers.  

MPD has joint authority with the District of Columbia Taxicab Commission (DCTC) to enforce the District’s taxicab regulations.

OPC has received dozens of complaints from D.C. taxicab drivers alleging that MPD officers have improperly cited them for violations of taxicab regulations.  Some of the complaints further allege that MPD officers, in issuing the citations, unlawfully discriminated on the basis of race or national origin.  Several D.C. taxicab operators are immigrants, many of African ancestry.

PCB’s review of the complaints revealed that many of the challenged citations in fact were validly issued and resulted from taxicab drivers’ lack of understanding of applicable DCTC regulations, in some instances due to vague and confusing regulatory language and in others because of  inadequate training.

PCB’s review further revealed that MPD officers lack clarity regarding certain DCTC regulations, such as what constitutes adequate proof of taxicab driver insurance, and that some MPD officers may engage in overzealous enforcement.

In order to promote fairer and more informed enforcement of the District’s taxicab regulations, PCB recommends that DCTC improve pre-license taxi driver training; establish annual taxicab driver refresher training; and review and, where necessary, revise DCTC rules and regulations for clarity and accuracy. 

PCB also recommends that MPD update its in-house taxi enforcement training to correct any errors regarding taxi driver obligations and coordinate with DCTC to establish some joint taxicab enforcement training sessions. 

PCB further recommends that DCTC and MPD coordinate to establish a system for tracking and reviewing taxicab citations issued by both agencies to identify trends, including possible unlawful bias in enforcement.     

“It is important for both MPD officers and taxicab drivers to have an accurate understanding of the District’s taxicab regulations,” said Philip K. Eure, OPC’s executive director. “Better training and coordination between MPD and DCTC will lead to greater compliance with and fairer enforcement of the regulations.  That, in turn, will lead to fewer complaints against the police from taxi cab drivers.” 

To view a full copy of PCB’s full report and recommendations, click on the link below: