WASHINGTON – (WMAL) As lawsuits continue winding their way through the D.C. court system related to the D.C. Police Department’s handling of Inauguration Day protests, the D.C. Council is budgeting $150,000 for the District’s Office of Police Complaints to do an in-depth review of police actions that day.
It only took one day for the first lawsuits to be filed against D.C. Police alleging excessive force and mass arrests, in some cases rounding up people that were not involved in the unrest at all, court documents said. A preliminary OPC report also alleged pepper spray use outside the department’s normal policy and violations of protestors’ First Amendment rights.
OPC’s Director, Mike Tobin, told WMAL the Police Department and community would benefit from a more comprehensive review, but they needed more money to do it first.
“There was a lot of video footage, a lot of (police) body camera footage, there was a fairly high volume of documents that need to be reviewed and individuals that need to be interviewed,” Tobin said. “It’s going to require more assets and more resources than our office normally has available.”
Over 200 people were arrested during Inauguration Day protests and riots, many of whom still face felony rioting charges and the potential for a decade or more behind bars. For many, it conjured up memories of the World Bank protests in Pershing Park in 2002, during which police were again accused of mass arrests. The case ended in an $8.25 million payout from the city.
On Inauguration Day, while protestors gummed up the security process, there were more violent clashes in Franklin Square, where windows were smashed, a limousine was set on fire, and officers were pelted with rocks and other projectiles. Six had minor injuries.
Tobin said his report, conditional on a final vote from the Council next week, cannot order changes, but instead would offer recommendations if the office sees fit.
“The purpose of this report is to help the Metropolitan Police Department do its job better,” he said. “If we can identify policies, procedures, and training that can be improved, that is the ultimate goal and I would consider it a successful report.”
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