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D.C. Council Passes Landmark Police Reforms

The D.C. Council on Tuesday approved reforms of policing in light of the death of George Floyd and subsequent protests in the city condemning violence at the hands of law enforcement officers.

The legislation, titled the Comprehensive Policing and Justice Reform Emergency Amendment Act of 2020, was authored by Council member Charles Allen (D-Ward 6) and prohibits neck restraints or chokeholds by District police officers and prevents officers from reviewing their body camera footage, WTOP reported.

Other developments require that the police and mayor make an officer’s name and their bodycam footage, if involved in an incident using force, public within 72 hours and expands Use of Force Review Board voting members. The District’s anti-mask law has been repealed, police complaint reforms have been added and there are new limits on consent searches.

Amendments such as prohibiting the use of tear gas and other chemical agents and rubber bullets by D.C. police officers to break up demonstrations passed the council in addition to limiting the use of riot gear.

The council also adopted an amendment to create a police reform commission that Council members Vincent Gray (D-Ward 7) and Anita Bonds (D-At Large) authored. Mayor Muriel Bowser indicated the support for the emergency legislation, which has a 90-day legislative life, but requested a delay on a vote for police reforms.

“I urge the council to allow a process where these issues can receive robust public discourse, which I believe will only help to increase community buy-in on any proposed reforms,” the mayor said in a letter. “I am especially concerned that [the bill] and the proposed amendments that I have been made aware of, amend laws related to issues like body-worn cameras, laws which received significant consideration and public input when they were crafted, and not would be significantly changed by emergency legislation.”

Floyd, a 46-year-old Black man, died in Minneapolis last month while in police custody. His death, which was captured on video, sparked outrage and weeks of protests nationwide, including in the District.

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