Plaintiffs Call on D.C. Council to Make MPD’s Commitment to Publish Data Part of the Law


WASHINGTON – After the District of Columbia police transformed their data collection system and released four weeks of data to prove they had begun complying with the Neighborhood Engagement Achieves Results Act after a three-year delay, the ACLU-DC and the District of Columbia filed a motion on Wednesday jointly asking the D.C. Superior Court to dismiss Black Lives Matter D.C. v. Bowser, the lawsuit that finally forced the District’s compliance. The parties’ joint dismissal motion specifically refers to the District’s policy changes, data release, and commitment to continue collecting and publishing the data on a semi-annual basis.

“The lawsuit served its purpose of requiring the Metropolitan Police Department at long last to follow the law,” said Scott Michelman, ACLU-DC Legal Co-Director and lead counsel for the plaintiffs, Black Lives Matter D.C., Stop Police Terror Project D.C., and ACLU-DC. “It is disgraceful that the Bowser administration seemed to think that disregarding the law was a viable option, and that it took a lawsuit resulting in a court order to convince the administration otherwise. We are, however, pleased that today’s joint motion reaffirmed the District’s commitment to continue collection and publication of the required data.”

On June 27, the D.C. Superior Court granted the ACLU-DC’s motion for a preliminary injunction and ordered the District comply with the data collection provision of the law within 28 days. The court found the District’s delay to have been “unreasonable,” citing its recalcitrance towards even properly collecting the data and the inadequate interim measures the District had proposed before achieving full implementation. The result of the delay, the court concluded, was to “rob[] the community of essential information about the interactions of its police officers with its citizens.”

Within two weeks of the court’s decision, the District revised its data-collection protocol to incorporate new data fields in an effort to comply with the law. It then moved to vacate the preliminary injunction, arguing that it was in compliance. To enable the plaintiffs to evaluate that claim, the District agreed to provide plaintiffs with a four-week sample of stop data. That data was shared with the plaintiffs on September 9, and it provided the basis for the plaintiffs’ willingness to agree to dismiss the case.

“The community worked so hard to push the Council to pass the NEAR Act back in 2016. It’s long past time the community received the answers that the law demands about how MPD is conducting itself,” said April Goggans, a Core Organizer with Black Lives Matter D.C. “Even a preliminary analysis of four weeks of data confirms what we have long known but been unable to document systematically until now: the District of Columbia is overpolicing residents of color. We will continue to push for accountability and transparency for our community.”

Passed in June 2016, the NEAR Act is a comprehensive policy framework that promotes public safety by reducing incarceration, employing a public health approach to violence prevention, and increasing accountability through comprehensive data collection on police stops. The stop-and-frisk data collection provision calls for police officers to collect 14 categories of data for every stop in D.C. The D.C. Council allocated funding for data collection to begin in October 2016.

In February 2017, the ACLU-DC filed a Freedom of Information Act request for the stop-and-frisk data; the mayor’s office responded that no records that met the NEAR Act’s data collection requirements existed. In early 2018, the mayor’s office released a report stating the NEAR Act had been “fully implemented.” The ACLU-DC filed a renewed FOIA request for the data in March 2018 and threatened legal action to compel compliance if the data was not produced. When the District proved unable to produce the data, the plaintiffs sued in May 2018, charging Mayor Muriel Bowser, Deputy Director for Public Safety Kevin Donahue, and MPD Chief Peter Newsham with failure to comply with data collection provision of the law.

“Over the past three years, an untold amount of information about how policing is conducted in the District has been lost due to the District’s stubborn disregard for a law that passed unanimously in the Council,” said Nassim Moshiree, Policy Director, ACLU-DC. “One month’s worth of data has shown a stark racial disparity in who is being stopped in the District. We now call on the Council to amend the NEAR Act to codify into law MPD’s commitment to publish the stop-and-frisk data, so the progress we made with today’s lawsuit isn’t lost tomorrow.”

More information about the lawsuit, Black Lives Matter D.C. v. Bowser, can be found here.