Ahead of the D.C. Council’s scheduled vote on the Secure DC Act, ACLU-D.C. Policy Counsel Melissa Wasser said today:    

“We deserve to be safe from crime and from abuse of power. But the Secure DC Act still contains provisions that put both our safety and our rights at risk. Allowing officers to harass people and escape accountability will not make D.C. safer. These types of provisions have no place in a public safety bill, and they open the door for abuse of power. Whether in permanent or emergency legislation, theses provisions should not be passed at all.  

Our system of justice relies on due process – innocent until proven guilty. But two provisions in the Secure DC Act treat people as guilty until proven innocent. Allowing police to stop people in masks and face-coverings simply because an officer suspects bad behavior would enable police harassment, not prevent crime. Similarly, failed and ineffective ‘drug-free’ zones do little to prevent crime; instead, they open the door for police officers to harass people and violate our rights.  

There are also provisions in the Secure DC Act that would give inappropriate and harmful powers to police. The proposed changes to body-worn camera provisions would roll back police accountability and spread distrust of police. And giving the chief of police a voting membership on the D.C. Sentencing Commission would erode the separation of powers that provides checks and balances to our justice system.  

We commend the D.C. Council for amending the Secure DC Act on February 6 to remove invasive DNA collection and to stop the ineffective expansion of pretrial detention. These amendments will go a long way to protect us all from abuse of power. We urge the Council to further amend the Secure DC Act and remove provisions that give inappropriate powers to police and enable police harassment. Instead, District leaders should build a comprehensive public safety system that focuses on prevention, effectiveness, and accountability.” 

For more information on these provisions, please see this fact sheet