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'It's a gutshot' | DC police chief reacts to police reform legislation

DC Police Chief Peter Newsham said the Comprehensive Policing and Justice Reform Amendment Act 2020 was passed without consulting with MPD.

WASHINGTON — The D.C. Council unanimously passed a temporary package of police reforms on Tuesday, over the objections of the police union and without hearing public testimony. The bill, called the Comprehensive Policing and Justice Reform Amendment Act 2020, bans the use of tear gas on protesters, neck restraints like the one used on George Floyd, the hiring of officers with a history of misconduct, and requires the mayor to release body-camera footage of officers who use force on civilians within 72 hours. 

The police union slammed the bill on Twitter, writing "It's beyond comprehension that an entire deliberative body of legislators would so hastily make such extreme changes without the proper input and review." 

D.C. Police Chief Peter Newsham said he was not consulted regarding the new legislation. WUSA9's Bruce Johnson spoke one-on-one with Chief Newsham to get his thoughts on the bill, which he called a "gutshot." 

RELATED: Over police union objections, DC Council unanimously passes sweeping police reform package

"When you're putting all that hard work, you're open-minded to reform, you're trying to police in a way that the community accepts, for someone to even suggest that you're not, when all that effort is going into it, is deflating," Newsham said. "I can't come up with a better word than that." 

According to the chief, he felt that many of the changes enacted in the new bill were already part of MPD's operating procedures. 

"With regards to some of the changes made in the bill yesterday, those are codifying things that we already have in our general orders," Newsham said. "We entered into a Memorandum of Agreement with the Department of Justice in 2002, where we significantly changed a lot of policies and procedures regarding the use of force. As recently as this year, MPD revised its general order for the handling of juveniles." 

Newsham also addressed the nationwide pleas to "defund police," a mantra that was echoed in D.C. at protests over the weekend. 

"That I think is a very significant issue," he started. "The [DC Council] Chairman didn't even allow me to finish my testimony on this issue. He cut me off in the middle of my testimony, which suggests to me that the Council doesn't really want to hear what the police department has to say about its budget. And that to me is a little bit frightening."

Though he wishes the bill had been handled differently, he ultimately does not feel it will affect the morale of his department. 

"The men and women who work for this agency, they're not going to give up," Newsham said. "They're not going to quit." 

RELATED: Protesters are demanding police reform, and local lawmakers may give it to them

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