D.C. Considers New Definition of “Assaulting a Police Officer”

In the district, what it means to assault a police officer may soon change.

D.C. Police Chief Cathy Lanier announced that she agrees the broadly written law should be changed to reflect real, physical assaults. According to a new report by WAMU’s Patrick Madden, infractions as minor as wiggling while handcuffed or yelling at an officer can constitute an assault charge.

D.C. Council member Mary Cheh will propose a bill to precisely define what assaulting an officer means. It’s a welcome move to fellow politicians and even members of the police union who say the current law is hard on them as well.

“For example, in Maryland, I could charge you with resisting arrest,” said D.C. Police Union member Delroy Burton. “In D.C., I have to charge you with assaulting a police officer.”

Madden’s report details the arrests for “assault on a police officer” from 2012-2014. The report finds that the charge was used as much for crowd control as it was for actual crimes. According to Madden’s report, many “assault” cases involved minimal physical contact and were never prosecuted.

Council hearings on changing the law could be held soon.

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