D.C.'s Metropolitan Police Department and mayor are making sure to distinguish their local officers' actions from the force federal police officers used against protesters Monday evening.
Officers from the U.S. Secret Service and U.S. Park Police advanced on a crowd of protesters to clear the street in front of Lafayette Square. On Twitter, Mayor Muriel Bowser called the action "shameful."
"We become concerned about any police or non-policing force in the District that doesn’t share our values and is not accountable to the chief of police or to me," Bowser said during a news conference Tuesday.
The executive director of D.C.'s Office of Police Complaints, Mike Tobin, applauded the response he's seen thus far. As of Monday afternoon, the independent agency tasked with investigating complaints against MPD officers, had only received about a half dozen complaints from protesters, amid thousands of police interactions. They include use of pepper spray and excessive use of force.
"That is our expectation that they respond in a very restrained and respectful manner and the majority of the time, that's exactly what we are witnessing," Tobin said.
Tobin said MPD has worked hard to change policies and train officers to build trust with the community, but that can be diminished if federal officers are using excessive force against peaceful protesters. He said MPD officers have endured a significant amount of verbal and physical provocation from protesters. But the department has urged use of force only to stop violence or dangerous situations.
OPC received more than 150 phone calls and emails about MPD's curfew enforcement on Swann Street late Monday night. They are still being reviewed, but so far, none allege excessive force. OPC does not have jurisdiction over federal officers.
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On Monday, a U.S. Park Police officer was captured on video shoving his shield repeatedly into an Australian news photographer, who was clearly holding a camera at the time. Virginia State Sen. Scott Surovell called the encounter an unprovoked assault on the journalist and retweeted a video of it, along with a reminder of the shooting of unarmed driver Bijan Ghaisar by Park Police officers in 2017.
"The Park Police has recently shown a real issue with their training and their discipline and their enforcement. They just seem like there's no accountability for them at any level," Surovell said.
He and other local leaders are now questioning the mutual aid agreements some local police departments in Northern Virginia have with the U.S. Park Police.
On Tuesday, the Arlington County Board met to discuss their police agency's role in assisting Park Police Monday evening and how to limit the kinds of operations they would assist with in the future.
"I'm not sure many citizens differentiate between one police versus another police," said Surovell. "So it's important that they all try to act as good community stewards and show people respect when they're out there doing their job and not abuse their authority."
Late Tuesday, the Park Police chief issued a statement saying the protesters near Lafayette Park were becoming violent Monday evening, prior to that use of force.
On Wednesday, Park Police released this statement on the officer seen shoving his shield into a journalist: “As is consistent with our established practices and procedures, two U.S. Park Police officers have been assigned to administrative duties, while an investigation takes place regarding the incident with the Australian Press.”
Reported by Jodie Fleischer, produced by Rick Yarborough, and shot and edited by Jeff Piper.