Bill Would Also Not Solve Problem It Identifies
The ACLU of DC opposed adoption of District Bill 18-555, the "School Safe Passage Emergency Zone Act of 2009," calling the bill both ineffective and unconstitutional. The ACLU testimony noted:
The Bill authorizes a police officer to order a group of three or more presumed miscreants to leave the school safe passage emergency zone. But it is the presence of the police officer that protects the school children. Once the officer leaves, the children are vulnerable if the presumed miscreants return. And absent a continuing police presence, the order to disperse cannot be enforced. Giving police officers this authority to order persons to disperse adds little to the safety of the children.
Beyond its ineffectiveness, however, was the bill's clear unconstitutionality. The ACLU testimony continued:
The essential problem of the bill is that it would criminalize mere loitering without any actual misconduct. The bill authorizes a police officer to order someone to disperse if she believed that the person might commit a bad act. This is antithetical to our core constitutional values. We punish bad deeds not mere loitering. “[T]he freedom to loiter for innocent purposes is part of the ‘liberty’ protected by the Due Process Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment." Chicago v. Morales, 527 U.S. 41, 53 (1999).
The ACLU urged the Council to reject the bill. View a copy of the ACLU-NCA testimony on the 'School Safe Passage' bill (PDF).