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Securing Accountability_ Analyzing the Implications of Secure D.C. for Law Enforcement Transparency and Public Safety.pdf (68.35 kB)

Securing Accountability: Analyzing the Implications of Secure D.C. for Law Enforcement Transparency and Public Safety

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posted on 2024-04-08, 22:35 authored by Chloe Dunaj

On March 11th, 2024, Mayor Bowser passed Secure D.C., a crime bill that has over 100 provisions and has been enacted on both an emergency and permanent basis [1]. The bill is one of the largest crime bills passed in D.C.’s recent history, as it encompasses not only new guidelines for police officers but also new guidelines for government oversight. It is an omnibus bill, which is a bill made up of smaller bills that all fall under the same branch of law. Secure D.C. surveys three different categories, crime prevention, government coordination and oversight, and crime accountability. There has been controversy surrounding a few of the amendments within the crime accountability amendments passed by the bill. Some of the more notable amendments would allow complaints filed against D.C. officers to remain anonymous, reinstate a prohibition on masks on public property or during demonstrations for those older than sixteen, and increase sentencing based on the number of projectiles discharged from a weapon [2].

The goal of Secure D.C. is to ensure public safety. What remains questionable under this bill is how allowing negligent police officers to remain confidential ensures public safety. This country adheres to the rule of law, while it is not explicitly stated in the Constitution, it is implied. The creation of three separate branches, outlined in Articles I, II, and III, of the Constitution, is what allows no branch the power to be above the law. The separation of powers was specifically created with the rule of law in mind. While state police departments have discretion to decide how they are run, the Constitution also enumerated in Article IV, paragraph 2, that federal laws take precedence over state laws [3]. As no one is above the law, allowing police officers who have committed misconduct and received complaints to remain confidential, is a direct breach of this fundamental ideal. There is a lack of accountability being not only fostered but promoted by this provision. Police brutality is a pressing issue in the United States and passing such a provision seems to counteract the notion of public safety that the bill is aiming to achieve. Complaints against police in D.C. went up 11% in 2023 with 73% of complainants being Black [4]. This disproportionate impact on minority communities underscores the urgency of fostering greater accountability and transparency within law enforcement agencies. By affording anonymity to officers accused of misconduct, the bill risks perpetuating a culture of impunity, further eroding trust between law enforcement and the communities they serve. As such, addressing the root causes of police misconduct and instituting meaningful reforms are essential to restoring public confidence and advancing genuine public safety objectives.

Secure D.C. implemented various positive changes such as providing healthier food for D.C. jail residents and creating programs for hospitality career training for incarcerated individuals [2]. The practical use of ensuring the confidentiality of officers accused of misconduct can be subject to both controversy and legal challenges. Ensuring public safety should align with transparency and accountability.

[1] Brooke Pinto, Secure DC signed into law on permanent and emergency basis DC Council Ward 2 (2024), (last visited Mar 21, 2024).

[2] D.C., Act 25-411, 2024

[3] U.S. Const. Art. VI, § 2

[4] D.C. Gov, Annual Report of the District of Columbia Office of Police Complaints, Fiscal Year 2022, available at of police complaints/publication/attachments/OPC FY22 Annual Report Final.pdf.



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