WASHINGTON (DC News Now) — There’s another attempt by Congress to overturn a D.C. law.
House Republicans are taking aim at a police reform bill, the Comprehensive Policing and Justice Reform Act of 2022, that’s been in effect on a temporary basis for almost three years.
D.C. Police Union Chairman Gregg Pemberton said the reforms are the main reason they can’t hire enough officers. The force is down 500 officers right now.
“Ever since this bill has been in effect on the D.C. side, we’ve lost over 1,200 police officers and we’ve only been able to replace about 700 during that same timeframe,” Pemberton said.
However, D.C. Council Chairman Phil Mendelson said the reforms have nothing to do with that and that the bill is about ensuring police accountability.
“I knew it. I knew it had nothing to do with what was in the bills. You knew it had nothing to do with any genuine concern about our safety,” said Naïké Savain, director of policy with DC Justice Lab and a former commissioner for the D.C. Police Reform Commission.
Savain was on the commission which recommended changes after George Floyd’s murder in June 2020.
“We’ve listened to community members through the police Reform Commission. The council itself has had public hearings on this and they settled on a decision and now we are being undermined yet again,” Savain said.
Reforms include a ban on neck restraints, making it harder for officers to disperse gatherings, including riots, and giving the Office of Police Complaints “unfettered access” to D.C. police records, according to Mayor Muriel Bowser.
“Temporary versions of this have already gone through Congressional review three times,” said D.C. Council Chairman Phil Mendelson.
A permanent version of the bill was passed in January.
“This bill is a retribution on police officers and basically creates an environment where it’s impossible to go out and do your job and creates all kinds of crazy liabilities for police officers,” said D.C. Police Union Chairman Gregg Pemberton.
Pemberton says he’s for transparency, but officers don’t want to work in D.C. because of this bill.
“It eliminates collective bargaining rights and eliminates due process rights,” Pemberton said. “It forces body-worn camera footage and officers’ names to be released almost immediately after any critical incident. It creates a disciplinary database so that the public can search every single officer’s disciplinary history.”
Mendelson said the bill only takes away the ability for the union to bargain their own disciplinary process.
“It’s wrong for the police to be able to bargain their own discipline,” Mendelson said. “The FOP hates that prohibition so much and they sued the city and they lost.”
Mendelson said Republicans are just emboldened after overturning the revised criminal code.
“This bill is about police accountability. It’s about ensuring that we don’t have bad cops, we don’t hire bad cops,” Mendelson said.
“It feels like because they’ve successfully been able to do it once they’re coming back a second time, and they’re gonna continue to come back regardless of whether they have any good faith concerns,” Savain said.
While getting rid of the new criminal code had large bipartisan support, it’s unclear how this new effort will fare.
Axios is reporting the bill has 15 co-sponsors in the House.