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D.C. mayor unveils legislation to roll back parts of recent police reforms after crime spike

The ACT Now bill would allow police to pursue more suspects and review their own BWC footage when filing reports

Muriel Bowser

FILE - District of Columbia Mayor Muriel Bowser speaks during a news conference about the arrest of a suspect in a recent string of attacks on homeless people, March 15, 2022, in Washington. District of Columbia Mayor Muriel Bowser’s government has been struggling to handle steadily rising violent crime rates in recent years. Although police and city officials point out that overall crime rates have stayed steady, murders and carjackings have spiked — stoking public anxiety. (AP Photo/Alex Brandon, File)

Alex Brandon/AP

By Joanna Putman

WASHINGTON — With D.C. crime numbers climbing, Mayor Muriel Bowser introduced new legislation this week to “give law enforcement additional tools to keep the District safe,” WTOP reported.

The bill, called ACT (Addressing Crime Trends) Now, will allow police to declare temporary “drug-free zones,” add criminal penalties for organized retail theft and prohibit wearing a mask to commit a crime, according to the report.

Bowser said the bill is intended to address some of the negative consequences of the Comprehensive Policing and Justice Reform Amendment Act of 2022.

“Some of the changes that were made just don’t match the daily practice of safe and effective policing,” Bowser said.

Acting D.C. Police Chief Pamela Smith called police reform legislation in recent years “well-intended,” but said it was “overly broad and jeopardizes public safety,” according to the report.

“It creates situations where officers are kind of hesitant to go hands-on to apprehend an individual when it is appropriate. It has created circumstances where officers’ credibility has been called into question due to incidental contact,” Smith said.

Smith said the new bill would remove limitations on pursuing suspects in vehicles, to allow the department to pursue suspects who pose an “imminent threat to the community.”

It would also allow officers to review their own body camera footage when filing their reports, which was prohibited in the reform law, according to the report.

This year, D.C. has seen a 39% increase in violent crime compared to last year, according to District statistics obtained by WTOP.