D.C. Council repeals police reform legislation, delays implementation by a month

The D.C. Council repealed police reform legislation Tuesday, rolling back provisions involving the use of force and the identification of police officers who may have killed civilians, The Washington Post reported.

Council members voted to revise part of the emergency bill that barred officers from using nondeadly force without “probable cause” and required the department to identify officers and release body camera footage associated with an arrest with deadly force within three days. Under the Council’s changes, officers may use nondeadly force without “probable cause” to believe a suspect committed a crime and can withhold police identification and body camera footage for up to five days, according to The Post.

The Council first passed the legislation last month on the heels of protests demanding an end to systemic racism in police departments. The original bill was slated to take effect Tuesday, but Council members revised it because of “objections” Mayor Muriel Bowser posed to the Council, pushing its implementation to Aug. 15, according to The Post.

The revised bill allows people close to the victim of a killing involving police to block the department from releasing body camera footage to the public, The Post reported.

Metropolitan Police Department Chief Peter Newsham said the bill’s revisions would enable officers to use force when arresting a suspect who matches descriptions of a suspect, which would have been prohibited in the original legislation. Newsham said a suspect wearing the same clothes described by witnesses can legally ignore questioning at a crime scene under the bill’s previous provisions because a matching description does not qualify as “probable cause” to believe there was a crime.

The revised bill also prohibits MPD from hiring officers who “committed serious misconduct” through previous law enforcement occupations and allows all prisoners in D.C. jails to vote in elections, according to The Post. Maine and Vermont are currently the only other two jurisdictions to allow prisoners to vote.

The Council upheld other parts of the initial legislation, including a provision that blocks police unions from disciplining officers and bans officers from using rubber bullets and chemical irritants on peaceful demonstrators. Council members also maintained that officers may only use deadly force when “immediately necessary” in preventing injury and death, according to The Post.

The emergency legislation will be effective for 90 days before the Council is required to pass a permanent bill later in the fall, The Post reported.

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