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DC Police won't be able to use neck restraints or criminalize masks under new legislation

Councilmember Charles Allen announced the proposal on police accountability and transparency on Thursday as DC continued into its seventh day of demonstrations.

WASHINGTON — New proposals for police accountability and transparency in the District were introduced by the DC Council on Thursday, including a law formally banning "neck restraint" by police officers.

DC Council Chair Charles Allen announced the legislation -- titled 'The Comprehensive Policing and Justice Reform Emergency Amendment Act of 2020 -- at noon while peaceful demonstrations across the District continued to amp up, now on their seventh day.

The legislation aims at reforming the following within DC Police:

  • Prohibit the use of neck restraints by any local law enforcement or special police officer. Current statute permits them in certain circumstances.
  • Improve access to body-worn camera video recordings
  • Expand membership for the Use of Force Review Board
  • Extend the amount of time for corrective and adverse action against MPD officers in serious cases from 90 to 180 days
  • Repeal the District’s law criminalizing mask wearing for certain purposes
  • Increase limitations on consent searches
  • Expand mandatory education and courses on racism and white supremacy 
  • Reconstituting the Police Officers Standards and Training Board

Also introduced by DC Council on Thursday was the Chemical Weapon Prohibition Amendment Act of 2020, which prohibits the use of chemical irritants like tear gas by MPD in the dispersal of first amendment assemblies. 

While the District cannot make the same mandate of federal agencies, the bill directs the Mayor to communicate this policy to any agency operating in the District of Columbia.

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As protests and demonstrations continue across the country, demands for police reform have ramped up.

Last night's protests ended in zero arrests and no police property damage or police injuries in the District said DC Police Chief Peter Newsham on Thursday. Mayor Muriel Bowser lifted the curfew for Thursday, a change in pace from the past six nights with increased police presence.

While the demonstrations have remained peaceful, Councilmember Allen stressed that the new legislation is just the beginning.

"I want to make clear that this isn’t the end of reforms," Councilmember Allen wrote. " The emergency legislation is one act we can take, along with many others through the budget and further legislative reforms.”

DC Council will formally introduce the legislation on Tuesday, June 9.

Credit: AP
Democratic Senators pause for 8 minutes and 46 seconds on Capitol Hill in Washington, Thursday, June 4, 2020, to commemorate the life of George Floyd, who died after being restrained by Minneapolis police officers. (AP Photo/Susan Walsh)

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