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Poll: 71% of DC cops consider quitting over police reform bill

A Metropolitan Police Department vehicle. (Alex Smith/Flickr)
June 23, 2020

A survey conducted by the DC Police Union last week found that 71% of its polled members are considering leaving the Metropolitan Police Department after the DC Council unanimously passed an emergency police reform bill.

In a June 18 statement detailing the results of the survey, the union said the reforms, “have wide ranging negative impacts to the working conditions of police officers in the district.”

The survey found that of the 71% who are considering leaving, 25% may retire early, 35% are looking for opportunities at other law enforcement agencies and 39% are considering leaving law enforcement entirely.

According to the union’s statement, among their concerns are the elimination of collective bargaining rights for employees, the changes in body-worn camera policy as it relates to evidence collection and changes in “use of force” policy.

“The language in the emergency legislation completely degrades the rights and working conditions afforded to police officers in this city. This legislation will cause an exodus of our best police officers and make hiring and retaining qualified employees next to impossible,” the statement said.

Of the polled members, the survey also found that 96% believe the bill will cause crime to increase, 88% believe that officer safety will decrease and 93% believe that discipline will increase. According to the union, almost 600 members responded to the anonymous survey.

The recent push for police reform comes amid weeks of protests following the death of George Floyd while in the custody of former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin. The protests, often organized by the Black Lives Matter movement, attribute Floyd’s alleged murder to racial injustice, which BLM claims is inherent in the current law enforcement system nationwide.

In its statement, the union expressed its understanding of the national discussions taking place, but rebuked the DC council’s decision to move ahead with the bill.

“The DC Police Union remains steadfastly committed to important discussions on police reform and is always willing to be on the cutting edge of responsible and professional policing, but the idea that our department has systemic racism which manifests itself in brutality and civil rights violations is preposterous,” the union’s statement asserted.

What’s in the bill?

Under the Comprehensive Policing and Justice Reform Emergency Act, the council prohibits the use of neck restraints and bans MPD officers from reviewing their body-worn cameras to assist in writing initial reports.

The bill also expands mandatory continuing education, including “education for MPD officers on racism and white supremacy.”

Among the many changes are “use of force” reforms implemented by clearly defining non-deadly and deadly force as well as restrictions on the purchase and use of military equipment.

Police reform nationwide

DC councilmembers aren’t the only ones putting pen to paper in an effort quell tensions between law enforcement and civilians.

On Friday, Colorado Governor Jared Polis signed the police accountability bill into law. The new law includes prohibiting the use of deadly force except when there is an imminent threat, and a mandate for agencies to collect racial data on officers’ encounters with the public, Colorado Sun reported.

Earlier this week, President Trump signed the “Executive Order on Safe Policing for Safe Communities.” The order includes restricting the use of chokeholds “except in those situations where the use of deadly force is allowed by law.”

An entire section of the order was also dedicated to law enforcement encounters with those suffering from mental health issues, homelessness, and addiction. The order stated, “As a society, we must take steps to safely and humanely care for those who suffer from mental illness and substance abuse in a manner that addresses such individuals’ needs … all officers should be properly trained for such encounters.”