The House voted Wednesday to dismantle a Washington, D.C. police reform law that was passed in the wake of George Floyd’s death, and which Republicans say opens police officers up to public harassment and physical danger.
Lawmakers passed a resolution disapproving the D.C. Council’s law, known as the Comprehensive Policing and Justice Reform Emergency Amendment Act, in a 229-189 vote that saw 14 Democrats vote with Republicans. Among other things, the D.C. law bans the police use of chokeholds, requires the release of body camera footage after violent incidents, and publicizes the disciplinary records of police in ways that Republicans say could make D.C. cops victims of public harassment.
The law also makes it harder for police to access riot gear and tear gas, which House Republicans say creates the risk of putting D.C. police in “dangerous positions” in the public that could jeopardize their safety. The GOP also says the rules are so restrictive they have led to a wave of resignations in the district.
“The D.C. police department has seen over 1,190 police officers leave the force since the beginning of 2020,” said House Oversight and Accountability Committee Chairman James Comer, R-Ky., during floor debate. “That’s about one-third of the D.C. police department. Nearly 40% of those officers resigned. That means they chose to leave the department instead of dealing with the increasingly impossible burdens placed on them by the council. Since then, crime has been soaring in the district.”
“Officers are expressing their great concern with their feet and are leaving faster than they can be replaced. The DC police force has been depleted to an astonishing half-century low,” added Rep. Andrew Clyde, R-Ga., who sponsored the resolution disapproving of the D.C. law.
Several Republicans also noted during debate that the D.C. law was approved without the support of D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser, who declined to sign it.
While some Democrats voted with the GOP, most argued against the resolution during the debate, and some implied that Republicans had racist motives for trying to kill the D.C. law.
“By scheduling this vote, I can only conclude that the Republican leadership believes that D.C. residents, a majority of whom are Black and Brown, are unworthy of governing themselves,” charged Del. Eleanor Holmes Norton, D-D.C.
Another Democrat, Rep. Summer Lee of Pennsylvania, said on the floor that it’s “no coincidence” that many D.C. residents are Black.
D.C. Attorney General Brian Schwalb also defended the D.C. law and said it is “essential” to public safety and effective policing.
“By allowing the Chief of Police to discipline officers who violate peoples’ constitutional rights, prohibiting dangerous tactics like chokeholds, and enhancing police transparency, the Comprehensive Policing and Justice Reform Amendment Act increases trust between police officers and the communities they serve,” he told Fox News Digital.
Schwalb added that “out-of-state politicians don’t know or care more about public safety in Washington, DC than the more than 700,000 residents who live here.”
The Constitution gives Congress the authority to oversee the District of Columbia, and Wednesday’s vote is the third time this year that House Republicans have voted to take down a D.C. law. Under a process spelled out in the District of Columbia Home Rule Act, a D.C. law can be vacated if both the House and Senate pass a resolution that disapproves of it and if that resolution is signed by the president.
In February, House lawmakers voted to disapprove of one D.C. law that allowed illegal aliens to vote in local elections and another D.C. law that cut back on penalties for some violent crimes.
However, the White House has said Biden would veto the latest resolution of disapproval related to the George Floyd-inspired police reform law.