Washington D.C.'s Mayor Muriel Bowser unveiled legislation Monday, aiming to modify a range of policing reforms enacted by the city council in the wake of George Floyd's death in 2020. The proposal comes as D.C. confronts a surge in violent crime, prompting criticism from some quarters that the reforms have handcuffed the Metropolitan Police Department.
Bowser's new legislation, named the Addressing Crime Trends Now (ACT Now) bill, seeks to provide clarity on specific provisions of the Comprehensive Policing and Justice Amendment Act, a measure passed in December, the New York Post reported.
Key changes proposed by the ACT Now bill include limiting the circumstances where officer disciplinary actions are disclosed to the public, a move away from the existing reform that allowed for open records requests for certain police disciplinary files. It also calls for a revision of a chokehold, which critics argue is too broad.
The legislation further permits officers to review body camera footage before filing a police report to prevent inconsistencies. The changes also call for more explicit guidelines on when body camera footage is released to the public, and a removal of restrictions on police pursuits.
Furthermore, in Bowser's bid to combat organized retail theft and open-air drug markets, the ACT Now bill would criminalize wearing a mask with the intent of criminal activity for those over 16 and heighten penalties for retail theft and return fraud.
Another significant provision aims to reintroduce the authority for the police chief to designate areas as drug-free zones, a law previously repealed in 2014, which Bowser once supported.
Commenting on the rationale for the reforms, she emphasized: "We have to have a policy environment that allows us to recruit and retain officers." Reflecting on the existing reforms, she said they "don’t match the daily practice of safe and effective policing." She acknowledged the good intentions behind the changes post-Floyd's death but stressed that some may have inadvertently made neighborhoods less secure.
Council Chairman Phil Mendelson voiced disappointment with the bill, suggesting it doesn't address core crime concerns. However, Acting Police Chief Pamela A. Smith welcomed the proposal, noting its potential to better equip the force amid escalating crime rates.
Recent data has shown a significant uptick in criminal activity in D.C., with violent crime seeing a 41% increase. Notably, homicides have soared to their highest levels in over two decades in the first half of the year, while carjackings have risen by 108% compared to last year.