Special police officers in D.C. can carry guns and make arrests, just as sworn D.C. police officers can. And now there’s a move to make those special officers subject to investigation by the same entity that investigates D.C. police.
Currently, complaints against special police officers are investigated by the Security Officers Management Branch of D.C. police, instead of by the independent agency that investigates complaints against D.C. police officers, the Office of Police Complaints (OPC).
Ward 6 Council member Charles Allen, who chairs the Committee on the Judiciary and Public Safety, believes the current system isn’t working.
“Just recently, three D.C. residents reported being turned away while trying to file a complaint against a special police officer, alleging excessive use of force and wrongful arrests,” Allen said.
“The lack of effective civilian oversight over special police officers is incredibly troubling, since in 2015 alone there were two deaths at the hands of special police officers,” he said. “If that happens with [D.C. police], there’s a very clear system of review of oversight with the Office of Police Complaints that does not exist with special police officers.”
Such officers are commissioned and licensed in D.C. to make arrests and carry a firearm, and they are employed to protect a specific property. There were 7,720 special police officers in D.C. as of 2016. Some 4,523 of them carry firearms, but they all have arrest powers that are typically restricted to such areas as housing complexes, private organizations and government buildings.
“When we think about justice and we think about public confidence and trust in our policing, OPC goes a long way to do that; and we should have the exact same for special police officers,” Allen said.
Allen’s proposal has unanimous support on the council. Public hearings with stakeholders will be scheduled, and he believes OPC will not object.
“We’ve done some initial outreach to the Office of Police Complaints, and so we have confidence that they can handle this, assuming that we pass this law,” Allen said.