“Felon in Possession Project,” was the title of an electronic folder in a screenshot of the Metropolitan Police Department’s internal server. The recent ransomware attack of MPD server files has given District residents a rare glimpse into the inner workings of our police department.
Today, we filed a Freedom of Information Act request for MPD to release the records affiliated with the project.
The “Felon in Possession Project” folder undoubtedly corresponds to the racist prosecutorial policy of the U.S. Attorney’s Office to bring felon-in-possession charges in federal court rather than local D.C. court. As we previously discussed, the policy—enacted in February 2019 under then-U.S. Attorney Jessie Liu—subjects District residents charged with these crimes—a subset of the population that is overwhelmingly Black—to higher potential sentences and a higher likelihood of pretrial detention. The policy has been widely criticized for both its race-based design and impact (including the fact that it was originally only enforced in three majority-Black police districts in D.C.) and its infringement on D.C.’s self-governance.
One unanswered question in all of this has been what MPD’s role is in all of this. Former police chief Peter Newsham strongly supported Liu moving felon-in-possession gun crimes from D.C. Superior Court to federal court, and previously joined her in criticizing the District of Columbia Sentencing Commission’s decision to decrease sentencing ranges for felon-in-possession charges in the District. The policy was also initially justified as bringing federal resources to MPD investigations, though later examination of federal felon-in-possession cases suggested that MPD was actually the sole agency involved in a vast majority of them.
So what exactly does MPD’s “Felon in Possession Project” entail?
The public deserves to know.