In other use-of-force incidents, D.C. officers shot at people nine times last year, killing two. That was up from the two previous years but significantly lower than numbers from 2015 through 2017.
The report, released this week, was issued by the D.C. Office of Police Complaints, an independent District agency that reviews and investigates allegations of misconduct.
Reviewers said 1,098 officers reported using force in 2020, a 10 percent decrease from the year before. But that is substantially up from 2013, an increase attributed to a rise in reporting because of the use of body-worn cameras. In 2020, 66 officers used force five or more times, and seven officers used force 10 or more times.
The most use-of-force incidents in 2020 occurred in the 5th, 6th and 7th police districts, which also have the District’s highest crime rates. In 91 percent of reported incidents last year, force was employed against Black people. The report found that White officers reported using force at a higher rate than others.
Michael G. Tobin, executive director of the complaints office, attributed the drop in force reports to the coronavirus pandemic and fewer interactions between police and the public.
No statistics were available on what punishment officers received when their use of force was ruled unjustified. The department said it is prohibited from releasing those types of personnel documents.
Tobin urged police “to release the records of all discipline of all officers. It’s the step that people need to hear.” He said it “would inform the community of what really goes on in a disciplinary case.”
D.C. police did not respond to a request for comment about the report, which was issued Monday.
One of the fatal shootings by D.C. police occurred Sept. 2 when police came to investigate after video live-streamed over social media showed a group of young men with guns inside a parked vehicle in Southeast Washington. As police arrived, the men fled and an officer fatally shot 18-year-old Deon Kay.
Prosecutors, who declined to file charges against the officer, said Kay had been holding a gun and tossed it at about the same moment the officer fired. The police internal review of that shooting is ongoing, according to the report.
In the other fatal shooting, an off-duty D.C. sergeant who lived in Reston, Va., killed a man who was standing in the doorway of his apartment with a raised firearm the night of July 10, authorities said. The department has ruled that the shooting was justified, the report said.
According to the report, police fired their weapons in seven other circumstances in 2020, wounding four people and missing three. Three of those shootings have been ruled justified, and four remain under investigation. The report says shots were fired at officers in five of those instances.
The most common type of force used by officers were tactical takedowns and control holds, the report says. Neck restraints are a type of control hold, a tactic that is at the top of list by activists to ban across the country.
In July, the D.C. Council enacted emergency legislation that prohibits the use of neck restraints by law enforcement officers and includes a penalty of up to 10 years in prison. D.C. police had largely barred the tactic already, though the department had carved out a narrow exception for when an officer was under “threat of death or serious injury.” The new law eliminates that exception.
All but one of the neck restraints cited in the report occurred before city officials approved the new legislation.
Tobin said the police department’s Use of Force Review Board, a panel that looks at shootings and other incidents of serious physical interactions involving police, has “put a microscope” on the issue of neck restraints since the legislation was passed. The death of George Floyd in Minneapolis last year put a spotlight on the issue nationally; this month, an officer was convicted of killing Floyd by pressing his knee into the man’s neck for more than nine minutes.
The D.C. Council has expanded the Use of Force Review Board to include Tobin and five civilians, including a person who has been subjected to police force.
Tobin said the fact that D.C. police have ruled every use of a neck restraint unjustified in the past three years shows they are taking the issue seriously. He said most of those restraints were brief and did not result in a person losing consciousness.
Tobin said it appears that police are trying to “send a message to all of the department members that neck restraints are no longer tolerated.”
In August, former D.C. officer Michael L. Clark was indicted on five criminal counts in connection with the alleged use of neck restraints to subdue two suspects in separate incidents five days apart in summer 2018. The neck restraints authorities accuse him of using — a trachea hold and a carotid artery hold — were illegal before the council strengthened the law last year.
Clark retired the same month he was indicted, police said. A trial in the case is scheduled for Oct. 6. Clark’s attorney did not return a call to his office seeking comment.