Community

Pending D.C. Council Legislation Reinforces MPD’s ‘No-Chase’ Policy

Council Member Lewis George Mentions Karon Hylton-Brown in Introduction of Bill

For several weeks toward the end of last year, protesters repeatedly converged on the Metropolitan Police Department (MPD) Fourth District police station in the aftermath of a police chase that led to Karon Hylton-Brown’s fatal collision with a van.

D.C. Council member Janeese Lewis George, then the Democratic nominee for the Ward 4 Council seat, counted among those who stood on the front steps of the Fourth District police station. She also conversed with community members on the corner near where Hylton-Brown, driving a moped, crashed into a van while attempting to avoid the MPD officers pursuing him for riding without a helmet.

Lewis George said such experiences last fall compelled her recent introduction of a bill that, if passed, would reinforce and expand upon departmental policy forbidding police officers’ vehicular pursuit of suspects.

“We had on-the-ground community input from family and friends of Karon Hylton-Brown,” Lewis George told The Informer. “We had vigils and protests where people spoke and were clear that this should never happen again, and that it was important for Karon’s tragic death to spur change.”

Lewis George’s bill, touted as the Law Enforcement Vehicular Pursuit Reform Act, would prohibit police officers chasing people in vehicles, unless that person is suspected of committing a violent crime, or if the pursuit wouldn’t cause death and bodily injury. The chase would also have to be determined necessary in preventing harm to others. This legislation, if passed, would prohibit MPD officers from roadblocking and ramming vehicles.

The bill’s co-sponsors include D.C. Council members Robert White (D-At large), Anita Bonds (D- At large), Trayon White (D-Ward 8), Brianne Nadeau (D-Ward 1), and Mary Cheh (D-Ward 3). In the course of writing the proposed legislation, Lewis George conferred with the D.C. Justice Lab and the Office of the D.C. Attorney General.

The Law Enforcement Vehicular Pursuit Reform Act, which aligns with recommendations by the D.C. Police Reform Commission, has since gone to the Council’s Committee on the Judiciary and Public Safety. There, it will be up for discussion during a May 20 hearing.

Holding Police Officers Accountable

On Oct. 26, three days after his moped collided with a van along Kennedy Street in Northwest, Hylton-Brown died in a hospital at the age of 20. This happened just as his daughter turned three months.

In the days after Hylton-Brown succumbed to his injuries, there had been ruminations about whether the officers involved in the pursuit violated MPD’s “no chase” policy. Since 2003, the policy has forbidden the vehicular pursuit of a suspect for anything less than a felony.

A month later, MPD Officer Terrence Sutton and three other officers were placed on leave. They have since been placed on non-contact status suspending their police power, surrendering their badge and service weapon and limiting them to duty in which they don’t interact with the public.

The Office of the U.S. Attorney for the District of Columbia also took on the investigation into Hylton-Brown’s death. In a March letter to Lewis George, Channing D. Phillips, acting U.S. Attorney for the District of Columbia, said it is ongoing.

For several weeks, the late Hylton-Brown’s family and friends took to the streets demanding answers and accountability, often getting arrested and assaulted by police officers. Even so, they continued to organize, even aligning with the Fred Hampton Gun Club and New Black Panther Party while calling on attorney Malik Zulu Shabazz’s Black Lawyers for Justice to open an independent investigation.

Family members also endorsed “Karon’s Law,” a set of policy recommendations authored by grassroots organization Concerned Citizens, including the abolishment of qualified immunity for police officers, the termination of officers found in violation of public safety laws, criminal liability in cases when officers inflict harm on civilians, a citywide ban on jump-outs, and penalties for those who idly watch their fellow officers commit criminal acts.

Upon hearing about the introduction of the Law Enforcement Vehicular Pursuit Reform Act, Charles Brown, Hylton-Brown’s father, expressed concern that the legislation wouldn’t be enough to hold violent police officers accountable.

“Not only do you have to change the chase law, [but] we have to start policing dirty police officers, the ones they know are out there,” Brown said. “They need to remember that they’re here to protect and serve, even [when it comes to] those who are guilty of a crime. The so-called police officers know the dirty ones. There’s not one good police officer as far as I’m concerned.”

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