As Homicides Rise, D.C. Mayor Seeks Expanded Police Search Powers

Responding to Washington, D.C.’s rising homicide totals, Mayor Muriel Bowser will ask the D.C. Council to expand law enforcement powers to make it easier for officers to search people on parole or probation and immediately detain anyone found in violation of terms of release, the Washington Post reports. Bowser said she would propose “closing some gaps in our laws. We have been talking about making it easier for our supervising agencies to identify and search for illegal guns that may be in the hands of a violent offender.
As Bowser spoke, the homicide total had reached 103, just two shy of the total for all of 2014. Late Monday, police said a financial analyst from Texas died of wounds suffered Saturday during an assault near Howard University. Council Chairman Phil Mendelson said the mayor’s plan is essentially a reintroduction of a bill he authored in 2013.
The bill, which succumbed to opposition from public defenders and more liberal members of the council, would have allowed D.C. police to search individuals on parole or probation at any time of the day or night and detain them for up to 72 hours if they are found in violation of even minor infractions. Mendelson said convicted criminals must agree to such terms as conditions of their release but are rarely held to account through random searches under restrictions placed on authorities. The proposal drew immediate criticism from Julia Leighton of the city's Public Defender Service, who said, “Recent experience with arbitrary stop and frisk policies has made clear that programs that target classes of people, in their homes, on the street, and in their cars for intrusive, humiliating treatment . . . exacerbate existing distrust of law enforcement.”

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