Civilian board could soon review Metro Transit police force’s actions

Legislation approved Tuesday by the D.C. Council sets the table for a new layer of accountability for the Metro Transit Police Department, which handles incidents on the transit system.

The District council passed council member Robert White’s bill, which proposed two things: the establishment of an eight-member review board and an end to the use of enforcement quotas, both official and unofficial, to evaluate officers. It would have to be approved by Mayor Muriel Bowser before it goes into effect.

The review board would be comprised of eight civilian members, two each appointed by D.C., Maryland, Virginia and the federal government.

Since the Metro Transit Police Department is a cross-jurisdictional organization, in order for the provisions of the bill to be fully realized, the state legislatures in Maryland and Virginia would have to take up a similar version of White’s bill.

The new board would be similar to D.C.’s Office of Police Complaints, an independent body that oversees D.C. police and the District’s Housing Authority Police Department.

The panel would have the power to investigate, adjudicate, mediate and dismiss complaints against officers. It could ask that cases be considered for possible criminal prosecution.

White, in a tweet, said the approval of the bill “is a big step in responding to severe uses of force against people of color, and a necessary tool for all police departments.” In the past, both Metro riders of color and officers of color have complained about the agency’s police department.

Just over two years ago, the Washington Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights and Urban Affairs released a report that showed most people stopped for suspicion of fare evasion during a two-year period ending in 2018 were Black.

Earlier in 2020, The Washington Post reported that transit police based out of Fort Totten held an unofficial competition to encourage the meeting of arrest quotas.

Civilian-led police review boards are already up and running in D.C., Prince George’s and Fairfax counties.

WTOP’s Kristi King contributed to this report.

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