The following statement can be attributed to Monica Hopkins, Executive Director of the ACLU of the District of Columbia:
“In the wake of police killings of Black people, including Tyre Nichols in Memphis, the ACLU-D.C. calls on the D.C. Council to disband the Metropolitan Police Department’s unaccountable and dangerous Gun Recovery Unit (GRU).
The GRU has demonstrated a clear pattern of abuse and acting with impunity. In 2018, M.B. Cottingham, a 40-year-old District resident represented by the ACLU-D.C., settled his case against GRU officer Sean Lojacono for an unconstitutional and exceedingly invasive bodily search. Too many Black community members have testified before Council every year about the harm inflicted by police officers. A 2020 D.C. Council mandated report of the city's special gun recovery and narcotics unit found that 87 percent of people stopped were Black — accounting for 91 percent of arrests and 100 percent of use-of-force incidents. However, white people accounted for just 5 percent of arrests.
We hear a lot about gun recovery ends justifying the brutal means of this unit. Still, there is very little review of how a gun was recovered, how an arrest was made, or how often these recoveries have been admissible in court as evidence. This unevidenced "ends justify the means" mentality has denied people due process and has sanctioned aggressive tactics that harm the District’s Black communities. As we head into agency oversight season, we urge the D.C. Council to demand accurate reporting that can clearly demonstrate the GRU's effects. While we get these answers, the Council must disband the GRU to prevent significant future harm that we know the unit has caused in the past.
In response to police brutality, some have called for more training. ACLU-D.C. has continually called for transparency, audits, and reporting. There have been multiple lawsuits against the GRU and countless complaints of harm. Yet still, the GRU continues to traumatize Black communities without any oversight. The District must work toward real solutions that address the root causes of harm and not let a dangerous and failing program continue. District residents deserve to have our rights and liberties respected while we work to make public safety a reality for all.”