DC Police Use of Force Increases for Second Straight Year

Data shows African-Americans overwhelmingly targeted

The Metropolitan Police Department's use of force increased for a second consecutive year, and new data shows African-Americans are overwhelmingly the target of that force, but the majority of those cases were found to be justified.

Use of force is defined as anything from taking a suspect down in order to cuff them to discharging a firearm.

According to a report by the Office of Police Complaints, there were 1,035 incidents in 2017. That number went up to 1,242 incidents in 2018 — a 20 percent increase.

Of those use-of-force incidents in 2018, 90 percent were against African-Americans.

“Well, a 20 percent increase is going to be concerning,” said Councilman Charles Allen (D-Ward 6), who chairs the committee overseeing the police department.

Allen plans to ask about the increase in use of force at an oversight hearing Wednesday.

“When you see a number like 90 percent, black residents, who are on receiving end of use of force, it’s problematic,” he said.

With 31,680 arrests in 2018, only 4 percent of D.C. police arrests involved the use of force, according to the department. In 91 percent of those incidents, officers' use of force either met or was lower than the use of force response prescribed by the department’s guidelines.

The report also shows of the 232 most serious use-of-force incidents that were investigated, 80 percent were found to be justified.

The report also shows of the 27 use-of-force complaints filed by citizens in 2018, 52 percent were determined to be unfounded, and 37 percent were sustained.

Community activist Ron Moten said he thinks the number of complaints is low because people are scared.

“A lot of people are scared of the police,” he said. “A lot of people are afraid to file complaints.”

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