Poll: Nearly 71% of DC cops want to quit, 98.7% say city government “completely abandoned the police”

WASHINGTON, DC – On Tuesday, June 9, the DC Council voted unanimously, 13-0, to pass emergency legislation on police reform, despite the objections of DC Mayor Muriel Bowser. 
The legislation is effective immediately and will be in effect for 90 days.
Bowser, who we previously reported is against defunding the police, indicated her wish for a delay on a vote in favor of  “robust public discourse, which will only help to increase community buy-in on any proposed reforms on the matter.”
The legislation, known as the Comprehensive Policing and Justice Reform Emergency Act, was put forth by Ward 6 Council member Charles Allen and passed without public debate or input of Police Chief Pete Newsham or the DC Police Union.

Some of the measures in the legislation include:
  • renders unlawful the use of chokeholds, already prohibited by MPD general orders
  • disallows officers from using body camera footage for writing initial reports
  • decriminalizes mask wearing if worn for “certain purposes”
  • restricts purchase of military equipment by law enforcement agencies and “requires agencies who currently possess such equipment to return it” 
  • bans use of tear gas
  • implements limitations on consent searches, and disallows search without cause such as a warrant
  • requires release within 72 hours of body camera footage of officers who use force on civilians, and requires the public naming of such officers
The DC Police Union quickly voiced its objections to the measure, decrying its passage in “such a hasty and unthoughtful manner.”
The union stated:
“The Bill eliminates collective bargaining rights for employees, it makes it incredibly more difficult to charge a suspect with assaulting a police officer, it changes body worn camera policy in such a way that is (sic) can no longer be used as an evidence collection tool, and it changes the language in use of force policy in the most utterly confusing way that even the Councilmembers could not figure out the intent or the impact of the language.”
Police Chief Peter Newsham told WUSA 9 News:
“It’s kind of like a gutshot.  When you’re putting in all that effort, you’re putting in all that hard work, when you’re open-minded to reform, when you’re trying to police in a way that the community accepts, for someone even to suggest that you’re not, when all that effort is going into it, is deflating…
“The council member didn’t even allow me to finish my testimony on [the related issue of defunding].  He cut me off in the middle… which suggests to me that the Council doesn’t really want to hear what the police have to say about his budgeting, and that, to me, is a little bit frightening.”

Newsham added:
“With regards to deploying munitions on peaceful demonstrators, the Metropolitan Police Department would not do that anyway.  The only time that our police officers can deploy munitions is when they feel like they are personally in jeopardy, and that’s not going to happen during a peaceful demonstration.”
Greg Pemberton, President of the DC Police Union, specifically cited concerns with the detention and search measures in the legislation.

Pemberton said:
“Now that they are changing the policy that people can’t be detained without probable cause, there is going to be a lot more crimes that occur and suspects are just going to be able to walk off the scene and officers can’t intervene so once criminals realize that is the situation it’s going to be fair game to commit whatever crimes they want.”
Members of the DC Police Union were able to share their collective voices in response to the legislation in a survey of approximately 600 officer members of the union.
The survey results indicated that:
  • 93% believed discipline of police would increase
  • 96% believed crime would increase
  • 98.7% agreed with the words of Police Chief Peter Newsham that the DC City Council had “completely abandoned them”
  • 88% believed officer safety would decrease.
In addition, 71% of officers surveyed indicated that they were considering leaving the force.
Those officers who leave should very easily be able to find positions elsewhere, notes Pemberton.
“Police departments nationwide are hiring and … they would love to have a well-trained Metropolitan police officer.”
Even as the opinions of police and their representatives, unheard during the passage of the legislation, are clear as to the potential future of the Metropolitan police, the Council shows no sign of backing down.
DC Ward 6 Council member and author of the legislation Charles Allen states on his website:
“I want to make clear that this isn’t the end of reforms. The emergency legislation is one act we can take, along with many others through the budget and further legislative reforms.”
If he continues in this vein without permitting input from Metropolitan PD, Mr. Allen may find that in time, there will be no police in DC to reform.

Law Enforcement Today was able to talk with a former DC officer who still has ties to the department.
He told us:
“Morale is at an all-time low there. I’m not sure how many of them will be left if this keeps up.”
He said that many officers have contacted him to see if his current department is hiring.
“They’re even considering uprooting their family and moving to get hired somewhere else. Anything to get away from a city that is going to burn them like that.”
Law Enforcement Today will be following this situation and will bring updates on whatever new “reforms” the council considers when they’re available.

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