ACLU Statement Focuses on Washington DC Police Abuse Problem

By Rajesvi Deora 

WASHINGTON, DC – The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) recently released an article highlighting the toxic environment and lack of accountability within Washington, D.C.,’s Metropolitan Police Department.

According to the article, “Police abuse in the District causes significant harm, costs millions of dollars, and undermines the whole justice system. It’s clearly time for District leaders to invest in police accountability solutions.”

The ACLU argues the city has spent around $91 million dollars in the last 10 years settling lawsuits against its officers, along with the 14.3 million paid by D.C. taxpayers to rehire removed officers guilty of crimes, including drunk driving and sexual abuse.

According to the article, three of the rehired officers were considered “Threats to Safety ” and six have been accused of misconduct after rehire.

Moreover, the ACLU states, the lack of accountability and reprimand in the system has led the public to lose trust in their police system, and subsequently feel reluctant to approach it. This has only been boosted by officers’ lack of consequences for abusing their power, and causing harm and distress to civilians, the article charges.

M.B. Cottingham is a DC ice cream vendor who, in September 2017, was aggressively and inappropriately frisked by Metropolitan Police Officer Sean Lojacono. While Cottingham did give permission to be frisked, he flinched and protested when Officer Lojacono started to touch his sensitive body parts.

According to the ACLU, Lojacono proceeded to handcuff Cottingham, and violated his body two more times.

Cottingham’s ensuing suit against the Department eventually led to a substantial settlement, and the removal of Lojacono from the job. However, according to the ACLU, Lojacono has recently been rehired, because of a “system that values the interests of officers over the safety and well-being of those they harm.

“Mr. Cottingham should never have experienced this abuse. It should not have taken a lawsuit to get some semblance of accountability,” writes the ACLU.

The article also states the “lack of accountability” has led to a “toxic work culture” within in the Department as well, with cases of sexual harassment, racism and bullying.

According to the article, 10 Black female officers sued for racism, sexual harassment, bullying and retaliation for expressing concerns. A sergeant also sued the department regarding retaliation after they reported improper arresting tactics.

“Without accountability, it’s no wonder that the department has struggled to hire and retain officers,” said the ACLU.

According to the ACLU, the Metropolitan Police Department has recently passed a bill that takes “popular and effective” steps to address its lack of accountability. One of the law’s new features includes a database to report police misconduct.

However, according to the ACLU, this facility is yet to be funded by the D.C. Council and Mayor.

“Strict limitations and real accountability can start to fix the police abuse problem, but our leaders need to find the will to invest in these solutions,” said the ACLU, adding everyone has a “role to play” in “fixing” the abuse problem in Washington, DC.

“Together, we can move the District closer to ensuring public safety for all,” the ACLU asserts.

About The Author

Rajesvi Deora is a fourth-year Biochemistry and Molecular Biology major at University of California, Davis, who is minoring in Professional Writing and Public Health. Aiming to join the healthcare workforce in the future, Rajesvi hopes that her time with the Davis Vanguard expands her boundaries of perspective, empathy and humanity such that she is a person who is aware of daily injustices, and is sympathetic and receptive to them. Rajesvi hopes the experiences and stories she gains while being an intern will provide her the fuel to advocate for injustice in any field or space. She enjoys writing poetry, singing and spending time with family in her free time.

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