“This is unacceptable,” Nadeau said in a tweet. “Working on getting in touch with the appropriate officials to get answers.”
The incident comes a little more than a month after Pavlik briefed Metro board members about several changes in recent months intended to improve policing, diversify the police force and improve community relations.
Many Black D.C. residents have said they think transit police officers disproportionately target stations in predominantly African American neighborhoods and are quick to make arrests because of what the residents say is departmental pressure or arrest quotas. Pavlik has denied that officers are judged by any count of enforcement actions, but police union leaders say officers feel pressured.
Union officials say they are working with Pavlik to transform the department’s culture.
In the one-minute video posted to YouTube by a transit rider, a Black woman is shown facedown on the Gallery Place-Chinatown Metro station’s tile floor with four transit officers restraining her.
“It does not take four cops to get a 90-pound woman on the ground,” Alexia Clinton, the woman who recorded the video, is heard telling officers. “She’s bleeding.”
Clinton is heard telling officers that a man nearby had tried to stab the woman and that she was in mental distress as a crime victim.
“He literally threatened to stab people,” she tells officers. “He threatened to stab her, and she’s on the ground?”
The woman on the ground squirms to sit up as an officer continues to hold her by a handcuffed arm. She is missing a left shoe and a face mask dangles under her chin, exposing her bloodied mouth.
“This is what happens when Black women get threatened to be stabbed,” Clinton says in the video.
An officer instructs Clinton to move back.
Metro spokesman Ian Jannetta said transit officers first encountered the woman about 7 p.m. Saturday “running and yelling on the Red Line platform.” Officers approached her to see whether she needed assistance, he said.
“She made several comments that suggested she was in mental distress,” Jannetta said in an email. “As the officers tried to keep the individual at the scene while they evaluated the situation, she physically assaulted an officer and she was subsequently restrained on the ground.”
An officer saw blood coming from her mouth and requested medical attention for the woman, Jannetta said. The woman refused treatment when paramedics arrived, he said.
As police restrained the woman, Jannetta said, a witness told officers that a man nearby earlier had brandished a knife at the woman when she “wouldn’t step away from him.” The man was arrested on suspicion of possession of a prohibited weapon, Jannetta said.
Officers, meanwhile, suspected that the woman needed mental health help and took her to George Washington University Hospital, Jannetta said. She also was treated for pepper spray exposure and for the injury she suffered to her mouth. Police did not say whether pepper spray was used on the woman.
She was admitted later that evening to a city psychiatric program for a mental health evaluation.
Jannetta said the incident is under investigation.
In June, in response to repeated complaints of excessive force or racially disproportionate enforcement, Metro’s board created an independent panel of seven members — including four residents with no law enforcement affiliation — to review complaints of Transit Police abuse, misconduct and use of excessive force. The panel began meeting in November and reviews internal affairs investigations monthly.
Critics say the panel lacks power to make changes. The independent review board, which does not meet publicly and is limited in what it can share publicly, cannot question or discipline officers.
Metro board members say the panel is a first step toward greater accountability. The panel cannot be granted more power without an amended compact signed by multiple jurisdictions that Metro serves.
D.C. Council members have voted in favor of altering the compact, but the Metro board has not taken up the issue.
D.C. Council member Charles Allen (D-Ward 6) said the weekend incident is another example of why transit officers need greater oversight. He was among city leaders who successfully pushed for the decriminalization of fare evasion in 2018, in part because of repeated complaints and a civil rights group’s study that showed disproportionate enforcement against Black people.
“Incidents like this one are exactly why [Metro] needs a civilian-led review board that can investigate and review any incident involving Metro Transit Police officers and the public,” Allen said in a statement. “It’s incredibly important to ensure the public can trust that a neutral body is reviewing what happened in a transparent, fast and fair manner.”