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Police Complaints Board Releases Report on Using Litigation Data to Improve Policing

Monday, March 11, 2019
Use of data can reduce costs to the District and improve officer performance

WASHINGTON, DC – The District of Columbia Police Complaints Board (PCB), the governing body of the Office of Police Complaints (OPC), today released a report to Mayor Muriel Bowser, the Council of the District of Columbia, and Metropolitan Police Department (MPD) Chief Peter Newsham on the benefits of using data regarding legal claims and civil lawsuits (“litigation data”) to improve policing.

Over the years, several lawsuits have been filed against MPD, including the mass arrests of protesters at a September 2002 demonstration against the World Bank, which cost the District of Columbia an estimated $13.8 million, and the recent pending lawsuits for arrests made on Inauguration Day 2017.  The District also reached a $3.5 million settlement last year with the family of an unarmed motorcyclist who was shot and killed by an MPD officer.    

The thorough collection, review and analysis of data from these lawsuits and others filed against MPD can be used to help the Department identify and correct potential policing issues, which in turn will lead to improvements in policies, training and other police practices. In addition, litigation data should be made available to the public with information on how the data has contributed to departmental policy changes and officer conduct improvement.

Therefore, the PCB recommends the following to improve police accountability and build greater trust between MPD officers and community members:

  • MPD should establish a program to systematically review litigation data for lawsuits filed against MPD and its members.
  • MPD should publish public reports, with aggregate information, regarding lawsuits filed against MPD and/or its members, together with the costs associated with the litigation.  The reports should include the current state of any interventions, trainings, or policy changes based on the litigation to inform the public that MPD is responsive to issues that are brought to the attention of the department.  These reports should be made on a regular basis; at a minimum annually.

“The data from civil litigation is available, but there is currently no process to systematically collect and utilize it to improve policing in the District,” said Michael G. Tobin, OPC’s executive director.  “A good litigation review system will allow us to learn from past mistakes and have the potential to save taxpayers millions of dollars if a single lawsuit can be prevented.”

To view the full report, visit www.policecomplaints.dc.gov/page/policy-recommendations.