The D.C. police officers involved in an encounter with a man riding an electric scooter that resulted in the man’s death are off the street, but the investigation likely will take a very long time.
Four officers were in an unmarked police SUV pursuing Karon Hylton-Brown near the 700 block of Kennedy Street NW when the 20-year-old turned the electric scooter he was riding into the path of a private citizen’s vehicle. Hylton-Brown later died of his injuries.
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All four officers are on non-contact leave and face investigations by the U.S. attorney and Metropolitan Police Department Internal Affairs.
“There is qualified immunity,” author and University of Maryland Professor Rayshawn Ray said. “Qualified immunity provides a series of protections for police officers.”
Ray said police protection laws and labor contracts can make it difficult to fire police officers even if they are found guilty of repeated violations of departmental orders.
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“They know exactly who the bad apples are in their department; they know exactly who the officers who they don’t want to be their partners,” Ray said. “And you know what? Hardly any of them can do anything about it.”
D.C. Police Chief Peter Newsham was clear officers are not allowed to chase a vehicle for a traffic offense, which is what a police press release listed as the reason for the pursuit.
There are also questions about whether the officers activated their body worn cameras at the beginning of the pursuit, as required by departmental regulations.
“We are not going to tolerate police officers conducting interactions with the public and intentionally not turning on their body-worn cameras,” Newsham said.
Tom Manger, former police chief in Montgomery and Fairfax counties, said the process of firing a problem officer can be difficult and frustrating.
“I like many police chiefs around the country did more than once have the experience where I recommended dismissal of an officer for their misconduct, and it was ultimately overturned on appeal and that officer came back to the department,” Manger said.
D.C. police are unionized and work under a collective bargaining agreement negotiated with D.C. government.