Bowser: ‘I support’ statements DC police chief made after cop seen punching man

Mayor Muriel Bowser spoke publicly Tuesday about the viral video that showed a D.C. police officer repeatedly punching a man as other officers tried to handcuff him in Southeast.

“Yes, I did view the video,” Bowser said during a briefing. “And yes, I was briefed in detail by (D.C. Police Chief Robert) Contee, and I support the statements that he’s made. And I also understand the frustration that people feel.”

“We saw one of our police officers, sworn with a gun and a badge, appear to use excessive force and punching somebody,” the mayor said, adding that D.C. police “officers aren’t trained to do that in order to take a gun.”

Bowser said Metropolitan Police Department officers have a responsibility to each other and to the community. “I want to be clear,” she said.

“I also want to be clear, the MPD has a presence in a community, and I know that community very well, where there’s open-air drug dealing. Everybody knows it,” Bowser said. “And everybody wants something done about it. So our officers will be present, will be responding. We will be going after guns and we will protect people’s constitutional rights.”

Officers did recover a firearm from the man who was seen punched. The U.S. Attorney’s Office for D.C. declined to pursue charges against him.

Bowser said she felt as though the man should have been charged.

“But I also know the reality that the prosecutor probably said to himself, ‘I’ll take this to the jury, there’s no way it’s going to be prosecuted. So I might as well, you know, spend my time on something else,'” Bowser said.

“The whole thing is completely frustrating. At least we got the gun and we’ve identified somebody who maybe will take advantage of some help to choose a different path.”

D.C. Police Chief Robert Contee said Monday that the matter was referred to the U.S. Attorney’s Office for possible prosecution.

An Instagram video shows police trying to restrain the man when one of the three officers punches the man in the face and then the torso.

During the struggle, a group of men recording the incident on their phones yells at the officers for punching the man. Someone then throws a chair, boxes and a garbage can at the officers while they continue to try to handcuff the first man.

One man can be heard: “You know, under protocol, if someone’s being restrained that’s no reason for you to hit him!”

At one point, one of the officers takes his gun out of his holster as he tells the crowd to back away.

At the end of the video, once the man is in handcuffs, the officers appear to take a firearm out of the man’s waistband and show it to the crowd.

DC leaders point to public safety changes in upcoming budget

Over the weekend, D.C. saw a string of deadly shootings. Bowser and D.C. Council Chairman Phil Mendelson answered questions about the 2022 budget and the number of police officers that are included.

“With regard to reducing crime and reducing violent crime, folks like to focus on the fact that the council and the mayor didn’t agree on the exact number of police officers, but if you think about it, what the council did this year was agree to increase the number of police officers to hire more police officers, which is quite different than a year ago,” Mendelson said, adding that the council also supported a variety of programs aimed at reducing violence.

Mendelson said that the “two branches are on the same page,” and there are a number of different strategies to reduce violence.

“The bottom line is we’re going into this fiscal year in a much better situation in terms of our resources than we did last year. We will have, with this budget the council approved, the ability to hire almost 200 new officers and more police cadets. Last year, we were going into the new year, we couldn’t hire any new officers,” Bowser said.

WTOP’s Megan Cloherty contributed to this report.

Will Vitka

William Vitka is a Digital Editor and reporter for WTOP.com. He's been in the news industry for over a decade. Before joining WTOP, he worked for CBS News, Stuff Magazine, The New York Post and wrote a variety of books—about a dozen of them, with more to come.

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