Washington police have mixed results after federal oversight: review

Reuters News
Posted: Jan 28, 2016 12:25 PM

By Ian Simpson

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The Metropolitan Police Department of Washington's overall record on use-of-force reforms is mixed seven years after federal monitoring ended, a first-of-its-kind review said on Thursday.

The results of the review of whether the department remains in compliance with a 2001 agreement with the Department of Justice were released as police across the United States are under scrutiny over relationships with the communities they serve, especially minorities.

Use of force had remained steady or fallen since outside monitoring of police in the U.S. capital ended in 2008, said the report by the Bromwich Group consultancy and former top Boston and Charlotte, North Carolina, police executives.

"We have reached a mixed verdict," the report said.

The number of intentional firearm discharges, which triggered the federal inquiry, had dropped to 15 in 2015 from 31 in 2007.

Since 2009, the number of officer-related fatal shootings has remained steady at three to eight a year. From 2008 to 2015, dog bites and use of batons and pepper spray remained steady.

Less-serious uses of force, such as hand controls and takedowns, have fluctuated.

The department "is plainly a very different, and much better, law enforcement agency than it was when DOJ began its investigation in 1999," it said.

But changes by police also have meant that a large number of uses of force go unreported, and the quality of use-of-force investigations has declined. Criminal and administrative investigations into serious cases also face lengthy delays, the report said.

It said Chief Cathy Lanier and her staff cooperated with the review and has agreed to implement some recommendations.

The department's Twitter feed quoted Lanier as saying of the report: "Citywide support was instrumental in MPD developing itself as a model agency in use of force practices."

The report said it was the first analysis of the durability of use-of-force reforms of police departments that were investigated by the Department of Justice from 1994 to 2004.

In the last two years, use-of-force policies in cities across the United States - in Baltimore; New York; Cleveland; Albuquerque, New Mexico; Newark, New Jersey; Ferguson, Missouri; and Chicago - have been the target of protests, federal civil rights investigations and media scrutiny.

President Barack Obama also created a task force in December 2014 to examine the use of force.

Ferguson released details on Wednesday of a tentative deal with the Justice Department to reform its police department and resolve a federal investigation.

(Reporting by Ian Simpson; editing by Grant McCool)