Today, Councilmember Robert White recommended provisions to include in the Budget Support Act to create an all civilian police complaint board for the Metro Transit Police. White said, “Every police department should have a civilian review board to examine police complaints. It makes police departments better and builds trust with the people they serve.”
In November 2019, White held an oversight hearing on policing communities of color following a viral video showing Metro Transit Police using excessive force on children and a bystander who intervened to help the children. At that hearing, White and Councilmember Charles Allen called on WMATA to create a civilian review board. White said, “We’ve been working to create a civilian police complaint board ever since the hearing. Following the murder of George Floyd by Minneapolis police officers, countless people from across the country began calling for all police agencies to have a civilian police complaint board similar to what we have in DC for the Metropolitan Police Department.” White said he believes that nearly all police departments will develop civilian police complaint boards, but those departments that resist this important evolution will lose some trust and credibility.
White anticipates that the legislative language creating the civilian police complaint board will pass as part of the District’s Fiscal Year 2021 budget in July. Because creating a civilian police complaint board requires amending the WMATA interstate compact, Maryland and Virginia must pass similar provisions, and Congress must consent for it to take effect.
The WMATA Board today voted to establish a Metro Transit Police Investigations Review Panel that will make recommendations to the Metro Transit Police Chief and the WMATA Board of Directors based on its review of MTPD investigations. The review panel will consist of police officers and civilians from the District of Columbia, Maryland, and Virginia. White said, “This step shows real progress from WMATA and will serve the region well as we work to install a civilian complaint board.” White said that the review panel does not go far enough. “It is vital that a civilian police complaint board have the ability to investigate complaints, hear from witnesses, question officers, and have authority to recommend penalties, which WMATA’s review panel will not.”