- The Washington Times - Thursday, February 25, 2021

The Metropolitan Police Department is defending itself against criticism over its response to Black Lives Matter protests compared to the pro-Trump rally before the deadly U.S. Capitol riot.

“We are a national law enforcement leader in facilitating peaceful, First Amendment assemblies and/or protests, and routinely conduct comprehensive threat assessments in an objective and unbiased manner,” spokeswoman Kristen Metzger told The Washington Times.

On Tuesday, D.C. Council member Robert White called for a study to determine whether biased threat assessments resulted in heavier law enforcement at the BLM demonstrations.

Mr. White, at-large Democrat, said race-based threat analyses “enabled” the “predominantly white mob” to storm the Capitol, whereas police responded to Black Lives Matter protests “as if they were going to war.”

“Race-based threat assessments led federal and local law enforcement to use rubber bullets, chemical projectiles, batons, shields, and helicopters to respond to Black Lives Matter protesters this past summer, but to stand down for white terrorists who publicly signaled their intent to kill members of Congress and forcefully overturn a democratic election,” Mr. White said in a press release last month.

The lawmaker wants D.C. Attorney General Karl A. Racine to compare the MPD’s threat assessments before and during demonstrations between January 2017 and January 2021, as well as the number of officers deployed, arrests, fatalities and civilian injuries.

The police department said it “has a history of embracing independent review and analysis of agency practices to implement positive change.”

Acknowledging that the MPD does not have jurisdiction on Capitol grounds, Mr. White asked Congress to examine if biased threat assessments have “created a substantial homeland security vulnerability in the wake of a rising number of homegrown extremists.”

Following a pro-Trump rally on Jan. 6, a mob overran the Capitol and overwhelmed the U.S. Capitol Police, who called in the MPD, the National Guard and other agencies for support in quelling the riot.

Hours after the rampage, Mr. Racine noted on “PBS NewsHour” the “contrast” of law enforcement at the Capitol during the BLM protests.

“What you’ll see in the images of the defense of the Capitol during the Black Lives Matter protests are wardens and other officials from the Bureau of Prisons, law enforcement heavily armed and in uniform — bulletproof vests and masks from the Homeland Security — National Guard from overwhelmingly states that are run by Republican governors, protecting the Capitol for no reason, where there was a peaceful protest,” he said.

Mr. Racine’s office told The Times that he is “still reviewing” Mr. White’s proposal.
Christopher Geldart, interim deputy mayor for public safety and justice, said he “look[s] forward to reviewing” it.

Mayor Muriel Bowser did not return a request for comment, but she has expressed support for a bipartisan commission to address “why the federal law enforcement response was much stronger at the protests over the summer.”

Last summer, Miss Bowser objected to former President Donald Trump’s deployment of out-of-state National Guardsmen to the BLM protests that had turned violent at times with looting, vandalism and clashes between opposing groups.

However, ahead of the pro-Trump rallies in January, she requested the D.C. National Guard and urged transparency surrounding plans for any additional deployment of law enforcement.

She said “unidentifiable personnel” who were often armed had “caused confusion” among demonstrators and local police last summer.

Acting Metropolitan Police Chief Robert J. Contee III recently said it is “not appropriate” to claim officers used restraint in arrests during the riot compared to the BLM protests.

“The first thing we had to do, we have to contain the situation we were dealing with. And the moment we were able to contain the situation, then members were able to start effecting arrests,” Chief Contee said.

The police chief also said this month that he wants to address potential bias within the MPD and that he is working with the mayor on a plan to investigate whether any current officers have ties to extremist groups.

The proposal comes as off-duty and former police officers from various states have been identified among the more than 250 people charged in connection with the riot.

“It’s not OK for a police officer to be a member of a Nazi group, and we don’t have any policy that says we can’t be a member of such,” Chief Contee said.

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

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