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Police Complaints Board Releases Report on MPD’s Enforcement of Blocking Passage Law

Tuesday, May 23, 2017

WASHINGTON, DC – The District of Columbia’s Police Complaints Board (PCB), the governing body of the Office of Police Complaints (OPC) issued a report to Mayor Muriel Bowser, the Council of the District of Columbia and Metropolitan Police Department (MPD) Chief Peter Newsham regarding concerns about MPD’s enforcement of the “Blocking Passage” law.

The District of Columbia’s Blocking Passage statute (Section 22-1307 of the DC Code) was passed on June 11, 2013. The statute gives MPD officers the authority to prevent crowding, obstructing, or incommoding of public spaces.

Since passage of the law, OPC has received 14 complaints alleging officers have improperly issued individuals move along orders for blocking passage or citations. Several of these complaints have led to sustained allegations against MPD officers. There are also complaints currently under investigation with OPC that involve blocking passage allegations.

In addition, OPC noticed that a majority of the individuals who filed a complaint with the agency belong to a specific racial group and some identified as homeless. The PCB is concerned that MPD officers use of the Blocking Passage statute is disproportionally discriminating against specific groups of people.

Based on its review of the blocking passage complaints, PCB recommends the following ways to help improve better relations and increase trust between MPD officers and community members:

  • MPD require its officers to document any incident where a move along order and/or a blocking passage citation was issued, and the incident reports must detail how specifically the person was blocking passage.
  • MPD should provide additional training on the correct application of the statute as well as cultural and sensitivity training on the proper way to issue move along orders in a manner that promotes cooperation and decreases animosity.
  • The Council of the District of Columbia should review the current statute and weigh the legislative intent against its effects on community trust since the law’s passage in 2013.

“MPD must ensure that its officers are trained on how to properly enforce the blocking passage law,” said Michel G. Tobin, OPC’s executive director. “Proper enforcement will help to build trust and improve community relations between the public and the police.”

To view a full copy of PCB’s report and sample complaints received by OPC, visit www.policecomplaints.dc.gov.