GLAA follows up with Evans on CCRB lesislation
Thursday, March 26, 1998
The Honorable Jack Evans
Chair, Committee on the Judiciary
Council of the District of Columbia
441 4th Street, N.W.
Washington, D.C. 20001
We are writing once again to provide some additional commentary on the question of whether the legislation establishing a new civilian complaint review system for the Metropolitan Police Department should include a provision similar to section 5(a)(iv) of Bill 12-360 granting the new CCRB the explicit authority to handle allegations against police officers who may have acted out of discriminatory motives.
We understand there is some sentiment that such a provision is not needed because any incident involving discriminatory motives would also involve "harassment, use of unnecessary or excessive force, [and/or] use of language or conduct that is insulting, demeaning, or humiliating," to quote from other sections of this bill granting authority to the new agency.
But we are aware of a number of incidents where police officers have behaved recklessly and irresponsibly by their inaction, rather than by any overtly offensive actions. In particular, there have been some cases where police responding to a crime scene have refused to take a report from the victim because he or she is gay, lesbian, transgendered, or whatever. Failure to perform proper police duties because of personal bias is not acceptable, and such cases should belong in the jurisdiction of the new CCRB.
Adding the anti-discrimination provision of Bill 12-360 may seem at first glance unnecessary and redundant, but we believe it is better to lean towards over-explicitness in this circumstance. The Council needs to make it unambiguously clear that the new agency has authority over such allegations, or else the ordinary victims of this kind of police misconduct may not know where to turn.
As we stated in our letter of March 11, the Office of Human Rights is not accepting complaints against individual police officers. While a clever lawyer may try to persuade OHR to accept a complaint rephrased to be directed against the Metropolitan Police Department rather than against an individual officer, there is no guarantee that OHR will accept all such cases, much less that the OHR intake staff will be sophisticated enough to suggest such a course to a complainant. And perhaps even more to the point, OHR is saddled with a serious backlog of its own — at least 2 years' worth.
We look forward to quick action by the Judiciary Committee to establish and fund the new civilian complaint review system.
Sincerely,cc: The Honorable Harold Brazil
Richard J. Rosendall
Gay and Lesbian Activists Alliance of Washington
The Honorable Hilda Mason
The Honorable Harry Thomas, Sr.
The Honorable Kevin Chavous
The Honorable Sandy Allen
Art Spitzer, ACLU/NCA
Sharen Johnson, GLOV