The D.C. auditor has launched a review of the District police department’s use-of-force practices to ensure the department remains in compliance with recommendations from seven years of federal oversight that ended in 2008.
Michael R. Bromwich, a former independent monitor for the Department of Justice who oversaw the police department from 2001 through 2008, will conduct the review, which is expected to take several months. Bromwich now runs a crisis management group in Washington.
Auditor Kathy Patterson, a former three-term member of the D.C. Council and chairman of its Judiciary Committee, said that “seven years later, it seems to me to make sense to look back.” She said that “if the police are doing a pretty good job, let’s document that, and it will be a good thing for the national conversation.”
A police spokesman said: “Given the current environment, [the department] welcomes an independent and objective audit. We are confident in our policing.” Patterson said the agency is cooperating.
Police departments across the country, most recently in Baltimore, have come under intense scrutiny after the high-profile deaths of several men during interactions with law enforcement officers. In Baltimore, six police officers have been charged — one with second-degree murder — in connection with the death of Freddie Gray, 25, of injuries he suffered in police custody. The charges against the officers followed looting and civil unrest on the night after Gray’s funeral by residents expressing anger about his death.
The Justice Department is considering a request from Baltimore’s mayor to investigate whether the city’s police department has engaged in a “pattern or practice” of excessive force.
The D.C. review will analyze how the city has fared since it underwent a similar investigation. Then-Police Chief Charles H. Ramsey asked for a Justice Department review in 2001 after The Washington Post published an investigation on the frequent use of deadly force by officers. Shootings by police dropped, and in 2008 the Justice Department ended the monitoring.
The Post revealed that D.C. police shot and killed more people per capita than officers in any other large department. The statistics included 57 fatal police shootings in five years in the 1990s. In 2013, the latest year for which statistics are available, D.C. police shot 16 people, killing five.
Bromwich said his duties are to “try to confirm whether the Metropolitan Police Department remains in compliance with that agreement.” He said the department “went through a very bleak period and made very significant reforms. Our job is to determine whether, on these issues, it remains in the same good shape it was in 2008.”