J20 Defendants Deserve An Unbiased Investigation Of The MPD. So Why Is Pro-Cop Org "The Police Foundation" Doing It?

By DefendJ20Resistance

Since $150,000 became available, D.C. based non-profit The Police Foundation has been conducting an investigation into police misconduct on Inauguration Day. There are strong concerns that the report they issue won't accurately determine police violence on the Inauguration Day protests. The Police Foundation has a close relationship with the MPD and a history of bias in favor of the police conduct. So while the first 6 defendants of the J20 trial are in their third week of court, there’s a serious contradiction present that police brutality has not been fully investigated before the trial began.

The report is supposed to make findings on police conduct in the scope of Standard Operating Procedure under the First Amendment Rights Police Standards Act. It was revealed in court that once the Police Foundation releases its formal recommendations, it will be subject to review by the MPD Police Union, the treasurer of which is star prosecution witness Detective Greggory Pemberton. There is already witness testimony that members of the MPD that day did not follow Standard Operating Procedures.

File: 2017.11.27 - Trial Day 3, p. 22-23 highlighted

Ex-cops investigating cops

The Police Foundation's motto is "advancing policing through innovation and science". Essentially it’s an organization comprised of former police officers and law enforcement agents--the President Jim Bueermann is the former chief of police of Redlands, California. The organization’s work includes research and policy reform, as well as developing law enforcement training. The MPD has even hired the Police Foundation in the past to contribute to a “Biased Policing Report” which came out in 2004. The PF is closely associated with the Department of Justice, and works with partner organizations like the International Association of Chiefs of Police (IACP), and companies like Mark43 which produces the mapping software used by the MPD.

File: Screenshot of Police Foundation homepage

At the latest IACP conference in Philadelphia in October 2017, Police Foundation representative Eddie Reyes participated in a panel presentation called Almost There: How We Are Overcoming the Human Challenges of Information Sharing, about interdepartmental security collaboration and the margin of human error at the 2017 Inauguration Day Protests. Not coincidentally, the MPD Chief of Police Peter Newsham, who has repeatedly lied about details of the case, including when the limo fire occurred, was also at this conference to give a presentation about Body Worn Cameras.

This is not the first time that the Police Foundation has been hired to do an “independent investigation” of protest policing. Previous reports have all sided with the police without any real accountability. Recently they were commissioned by the city of Charlotte, North Carolina to investigate the Charlotte Mecklenburg Police Department (CMPD) after protests that erupted when a CMPD officer murdered Keith Lamont Scott without provocation. The report found no police misconduct and actually commended the CMPD for “professionalism and restraint”, and heavily emphasized the need for the CMPD to control the public narrative to avoid such protests in the future. However, at no point does the report critique the initial flashpoint--that an officer killed a community member without provocation--and conveniently leaves that judgment to the court.

Setting A Precedent

Image: MPD officers using chemical weapons on protesters, pulled from the Sarah Lazare article "Group Investigating Police Conduct on Inauguration Day Has A History of Siding With The Police"

Defendants have described the violent treatment they received by police officers, being detained for hours after being exposed to pepper spray and chemical weapons, brutality, and sexual assault. The ACLU has even filed a lawsuit on behalf of defendants against the MPD. The MPD spent $300,000 on police weaponry in advance of Inauguration Day, deploying such weapons 191 times during the protests. In addition, a lawsuit filed by the Partnership for Civil Justice Fund has confirmed that the MPD failed to issue dispersal orders on Inauguration Day and violated procedures that require the issuance of such an order.

In February, the Office of Police Complaints filed a critical report about the MPD’s handling of Inauguration Day. In the report, OPC monitors observed and were subjected to numerous violations from MPD officers. This included arrests without probable cause, failure to provide audible warnings before deploying less-lethal weapons, failure to provide a dispersal route or time to disperse, and use of police lines to surround demonstrators (kettling). When the OPC asked for documentation from MPD, the MPD refused, resulting in the OPC making the request for an independent investigation. Specifically, the OPC requested for the consultant to examine MPD conduct on Inauguration Day and make recommendations to update the Standard Operating Procedure of the First Amendment Assemblies Act.

As the trial approaches the third week, it’s outrageous to think that the arrests haven’t even been determined to be lawful in the first place. A timely and unbiased investigation could have avoided the whole matter, as charges should be dropped. Those who were brutalized by police that day -- especially defendants who are having their lives disrupted by this ongoing prosecution -- deserve an unbiased investigation of the MPD's conduct. Moreover, for anyone who might consider participating in a protest in Washington DC, it is critical that a truly independent investigation take place, otherwise police will likely shift their crowd control strategies to standardize the tactics used on Inauguration Day.