- The Washington Times - Thursday, October 15, 2020

The Metropolitan Police Department reported Thursday that use of force incidents among officers have increased by 84% since 2015.

The 64-page report outlining the use of force in 2019 shows that more than one-third of the MPD, or 1,220 officers, reported an incident that year. That figure represents an 8% decrease since 2018, but a 40% increase since 2015.

The third annual report was compiled by the Office of Police Complaints, an independent oversight agency that investigates public complaints filed against police officers. It did not offer an explanation for the increase in use of force incidents or officers involved in such actions since 2015.

The department defines use of force as “any physical coercion used to effect, influence, or persuade an individual to comply with an order from an officer.”

The MPD confirmed that 98 of its “approximately 3,796” officers reported having used force five or more times in 2019, but overall occurrences decreased by 14% since 2018. More than half of the 1,246 incidents reported in 2019 involved only a single officer.

Most of the reported incidents involved civilians who were younger than 35 years old (70%), Black (91%) and male (85%). Moreover, 40% of the reported “officer-subject pairings” were White officers using force on Black subjects.

More than half of the incidents were reported in the 3rd, 5th and 7th Police Districts.

The most common types of force used last year were tactical takedowns and control holds, which accounted for 70% of use of force incidents.

Officers fired their guns at 10 subjects, causing one death, which is the lowest amount since 2014. Three of the shootings were deemed “not justified” under department policy, and five are still under investigation.

Fewer than 10% of officers reported an injury related to the use of force, whereas 61% of subjects reported an injury.

The report included new information about fatal police pursuits: There was one fatal chase per year in 2017, 2018 and 2019 — two of which were “not justified.”

On the same day the report was released, the D.C. Council’s Judiciary Committee held an hours-long virtual public hearing on three police reform bills, including the Comprehensive Policing and Justice Reform Act.

The legislation would ban chokeholds, require body camera footage to be released to the public within five days, mandate that officers involved in fatal shootings or other serious uses of force be publicly identified, and make changes to the Office of Police Complaints (OPC).

If passed, the number of members on the OPC Use of Force Review Board would increase from five to 11, and none of the members could be a police officer. The board currently includes one officer.

D.C. resident Sean Young expressed support for the measure, saying the “review of force should be done independently, and not by a board chaired by the people who use the force.”

Police Chief Peter Newsham countered by saying that maintaining a member of law enforcement on the board provides additional insight.

Kenithia Alston, the mother of Marqueese Alston, who was fatally shot by D.C. police in 2018, said she has been trying to obtain the full body camera footage and the names of all of the officers involved since it happened.

“Unredacted record breeds distrust and undermines public trust,” Ms. Alston said. “I hope Black families never ever have to go through what my family went through these past two years and counting.”

Roger Mitchell, interim deputy mayor for public safety and justice, said five days “may not be enough time” but it also might be “too long” when it comes to releasing footage that involves trauma-induced images, notifying family and obtaining consent. He said the family of the decedent or citizens themselves need to be “at the center” of the process.

“We can’t expect that one bill or one budget” will fix everything, said Council member Charles Allen, Ward 6 Democrat and committee chairman. “We have to be committed to a very real and sustained path.”

• Emily Zantow can be reached at ezantow@washingtontimes.com.

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