House Republicans took aim Thursday at a major Washington, D.C., policing reform bill just after Congress blocked a separate D.C. crime bill, signaling that the city will continue to face federal intervention in its affairs. Republican Reps. Andrew Clyde (Ga.), a noted D.C. nemesis, and Andrew Garbarino (NY) introduced the latest “resolution of disapproval” targeting D.C.’s Comprehensive Policing and Justice Reform Amendment Act, a package of police accountability measures that was crafted after the 2020 Minneapolis police killing of George Floyd. It passed the D.C. Council in December, the Washington Post reports. Clyde and Garbarino launched the effort to block the policing bill just a day after the Senate voted overwhelmingly to kill D.C. legislation updating its century-old criminal code and drastically changing how crimes are defined and sentenced. A majority of Democrats joined Republicans in rejecting the legislation amid political sensitivity about appearing soft on crime. That shift among Democrats away from standing up for D.C. home rule and joining Republicans to reject D.C. legislation signals a new frontier for the District, especially on the issue of criminal justice.
Republicans framed D.C.’s criminal code bill as too lenient for reducing statutory maximum sentences for a host of violent crimes, though the political debate ignored other tools prosecutors and judges could use to increase sentences. Republicans signaled that they planned to put the city under pressure by scrutinizing public safety in the nation’s capital. Now, the new effort to block the policing bill will test just where Democrats will draw the line between defending D.C. home rule and defending themselves from political vulnerabilities on the issues of crime and policing. The bill was passed as temporary emergency legislation in July 2020, and many of its provisions have been part of police policy for nearly three years. The bill adds civilians to disciplinary review boards and gives voting rights on those boards to an independent agency that reviews police conduct. It limits police searching people or property based on getting consent, instead of a warrant, and restricts the use of less-than-lethal weapons during riots and the use of military-grade equipment. The legislation bans police from using neck restraints, which codified rules already in place.