Amid escalating crime in the nation’s capital, President Joe Biden went to bat for a “police reform” law passed by the D.C. Council by vetoing a bipartisan congressional measure that would have overturned it. Now, D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser wants to roll back the same law that Biden protected.
The House Oversight and Accountability Committee, whose oversight includes the District of Columbia, held two hearings earlier this year on the D.C. crime problem.
“Unfortunately, President Biden refused to stand by the Metropolitan Police Department and allowed the D.C. Council’s anti-police bill to go into effect,” House Oversight and Accountability Chairman James Comer, R-Ky., told The Daily Signal in a written statement Tuesday.
“As a result, crime in the District has continued to surge and now the D.C. mayor is even trying to roll the D.C. Council’s disastrous law back,” Comer said.
The D.C. Council previously enacted laws to restrict police and to reduce sentences for felons. Congress voted to block both.
Meanwhile, Biden signed a measure—also pushed by the oversight panel to reverse a D.C. law reducing sentencing for felonies, including carjackings and burglaries.
The Oversight Committee adopted a resolution blocking the D.C. Council’s 2022 police reform legislation from taking effect. However, Biden vetoed that bipartisan measure in May.
House Resolution 42, which blocked the D.C. anti-police law, was sponsored by Reps. Andrew R. Garbarino, R-N.Y., and Andrew Clyde, R-Ga.
“I’m glad that Mayor Bowser can admit that her policies have contributed to rising crime in the District of Columbia. However, the proposed legislation is the definition of too little, too late,” Garbarino said Tuesday in a written statement.
The city’s new law expanded the definition of chokeholds, already banned for the Metropolitan Police Department, to mean most neck restraints; established a new office to investigate complaints against police; and made it more difficult for officers to disperse riots.
The formal name of the D.C. law is the Comprehensive Policing and Justice Reform Amendment Act of 2022.
“MPD has hemorrhaged officers over the last two years, leaving the department severely understaffed,” Garbarino said, adding:
Criminals have been empowered to break the law while our men and women in blue have been vilified and hindered from doing their jobs. D.C., New York, and [other] liberal cities across the country are paying the price for their anti-police policies and rhetoric. If Mayor Bowser wants to make a real difference to D.C. crime rates, she would completely roll back all of the D.C. Council’s anti-police efforts and empower law enforcement to tackle rising crime as they see fit.
Axios first reported Bowser’s proposal over the weekend. The mayor released a public statement Monday about a proposal (dubbed the Addressing Crime Trends Now Act, or the ACT Now Act) to amend the D.C. police reform law.
“This legislation reflects what our community is telling us: They want appropriate accountability for those who choose to commit crimes and inflict fear in our neighborhoods,” Bowser said. “At a time when we’re dealing with historically low staffing levels at MPD, we’re making commonsense changes that recognize the day-to-day operational challenges our officers experience and that will better support safe and effective policing.”
Bowser’s proposal would reinstate the ability of the Metropolitan Police Department to declare drug-free zones for 120 hours, to prohibit congregating in public space to purchase, sell, or use illegal drugs. The legislation also would impose criminal penalties for organized retail theft, establishing that “directing organized retail theft” is a crime.
The mayor’s bill also calls for reinstating a law against wearing a mask for the purpose of committing criminal acts or intimidating and threatening others.
House Republicans first raised concerns that the D.C. Council’s “policing reform” would lead to more crime. The Oversight Committee pushed the resolution to block the law in April. and the Senate followed in May.
However, Biden then vetoed the measure, saying:
While I do not support every provision of the Comprehensive Policing and Justice Reform Amendment Act of 2022, this resolution from congressional Republicans would overturn commonsense police reforms such as: banning chokeholds; setting important restrictions on use of force and deadly force; improving access to body-worn camera recordings; and requiring officer training on de-escalation and use of force. The Congress should respect the District of Columbia’s right to pass measures that improve public safety and public trust.
After Biden vetoed the congressional resolution, Comer noted that crime in the District of Columbia was up 27% from 2022 levels. Specifically, homicide was up by 19%, other violent crime by 16%, and vehicle theft by 118%, Comer said.
“House Republicans have pledged to advance policies that make our nation safe and take on left-wing efforts to defund the police,” Comer told The Daily Signal.
“The House Oversight Committee has held two hearings on historic crime in the District and we’ve advanced legislation to block the D.C. Council’s radical pro-crime and anti-police bills from taking effect,” he said.
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