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DC Council approves revised police reform legislation

The council approved a revised police reform bill during a marathon meeting Tuesday.

WASHINGTON — D.C. lawmakers quickly responded to last month's calls for police reform following the death of George Floyd. One month after approving sweeping police reform, the council approved a revised version of that bill Tuesday night.

The emergency legislation passed June 9 was set to take effect on Tuesday. Instead, the council passed a bill with changes to how officers can stop suspects and one that gives D.C. police more time before releasing body camera footage of an officer-involved in a deadly incident. 

Under the original bill, the police department would have been forced to turn over the names and footage of any officer involved in a deadly incident. The department now has five days to do so and has an Aug. 15 deadline to release the names and footage of any officer involved in such incident since body cameras were put in place in 2014. 

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The revision also allows family members of those killed to prevent any footage from going public. Also included in that revision is use of force. Originally, officers would only have been allowed to use force to apprehend a suspect if there was probable cause they committed a crime. After concerns from Metropolitan Police Chief Peter Newsham, that language has been removed. 

Last month's legislation banning the MPD's use of tear gas on protesters, banning the hiring of police officers with a history of misconduct, and making all matters pertaining to police discipline non-negotiable will remain the same.  

In June, the police union slammed the bill, writing on Twitter that, "It's beyond comprehension that an entire deliberative body of legislators would so hastily make such extreme changes without the proper input and review." There was no public testimony at the council meeting. 

"What we saw today was a disservice to the citizens of the District of Columbia who have been plagued with violent crime for years," a statement from the D.C. police union said. "The Councilmembers are seizing on the public sentiment to impose these changes that will significantly handicap the department for years to come."

The bill, called the Comprehensive Policing and Justice Reform Amendment Act 2020, was authored by Judiciary Chair Charles Allen, who said, "If we can't do it now, I don't know when we're going to do it." 

The D.C. Council plans to revise the emergency bill even more before discussing a permanent version of the bill in the Fall. Any permanent version would involve several public hearings.

RELATED: 'It's a gutshot' | DC police chief reacts to police reform legislation

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