D.C. needs police accountability. Congress and the President should not get in the way.

When D.C. police killed D’Quan Young, Marqueese Alston, and Jeffrey Price, Jr., it took years of relentless persistence on the part of the grieving families to receive even the most basic of answers to the devastating question, “What happened?” The District’s police accountability bill, which U.S. Representatives Andrew Clyde of Georgia and Andrew Garbarino of New York have moved to block, would allow families to get these critical answers when they need them most.

D.C.’s police accountability bill would also change the unsound disciplinary policy that, according to the D.C. Auditor, compelled the police force to rehire 36 officers fired for misconduct and to pay them $14.3 million in back pay. The D.C. Auditor classified three of these reinstated officers as a “threat to safety.” Six officers who are back on the force have had misconduct reports filed against them since being rehired.

Having lost their fight against accountability in the D.C. Council and in the courts, the D.C. Police Union has now lobbied Congress—where District residents have no vote—to overturn a commonsense measure that can protect us all from police misconduct. On March 30, the House Committee on Oversight and Accountability turned its back on police accountability and voted to block our efforts. Shortly after, the White House signaled that President Biden would veto this measure if it reached his desk. This anti-accountability resolution is now headed for a vote in the House.

To strengthen public safety, Congress and President Biden must let the District’s police bill become law, or they risk suffering the consequences of harboring dangerous police officers.

The D.C. Council first passed emergency legislation in June 2020 that banned the use of chokeholds, sped up the public release of footage from body-worn cameras, required that police officers involved in shooting deaths or other serious uses of force be named, and strengthened the Office of Police Complaints, which has oversight of D.C. police. This emergency legislation and later iterations of temporary legislation, dating back to summer 2020, were passed without congressional interference. In 2022, the D.C. Council passed long-term legislation to provide comprehensive police accountability for District residents and visitors.

This long-term bill is necessary because police misconduct and a persistent lack of accountability damage public safety efforts by eroding trust and wasting taxpayer dollars. From 2013 to 2021, D.C. police killed 26 people, 84% of whom were Black. With 100 people shot, D.C. police shot more people than 84% of police departments in the country. From 2010 to 2020, D.C. spent $91 million on police misconduct allegations, including payments for the 65 officers who have multiple claims filed against them. A lack of accountability has led former officers to file lawsuits that allege there is a toxic work culture and retaliation in the District’s Metropolitan Police Department.

With such a list of injuries, costs, and even deaths, people are starting to wonder why the police and political leaders are blocking reasonable safety measures. Why is it so hard to hold police officers accountable for breaking the laws they are sworn to uphold? Why do police unions want to keep dangerous officers on the force? And why are political leaders helping them do so?

Members of Congress and President Biden have themselves acknowledged the importance of police accountability because they have either passed or proposed laws that contain the same popular provisions as D.C.’s police accountability bill. The Congressional Black Caucus has supported The George Floyd Act of 2021, which restricts the use of chokeholds and establishes a police misconduct database that is also supported by the National Black Law Enforcement Officers Association. In May 2022, President Biden issued an executive order that created a national database of federal police misconduct.

People across the political spectrum want our leaders to prevent police misconduct and to hold officers accountable when they break the law. The District’s police accountability bill makes permanent popular and effective laws that advance public safety. The Pew Research Center found that an overwhelming 90% of Americans polled support a police misconduct database like the one that the D.C. bill creates. Pew also found that nearly 75% of respondents supported banning chokeholds, which the D.C. bill also does. The CATO Institute found that 62% of respondents did not think that police unions should collectively bargain over police discipline, and the D.C. bill restricts this harmful practice.

The District’s police accountability bill creates more transparency, holds police accountable when they break the law, and restricts harmful practices that have led to severe harm and even death. To strengthen public safety, Congress and President Biden must let D.C.’s commonsense police accountability bill become law.