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Introducing the Law Enforcement Vehicular Pursuit Reform Act

WASHINGTON, DC – Councilmember Janeese Lewis George, joined by five other Councilmembers, introduced the Law Enforcement Vehicular Pursuit Reform Act of 2021, a bill to protect the safety of residents by restricting the use of police chases in the District.

“Verdicts are not substitutes for policy change,” said Councilmember Lewis George. “Police chases are inherently dangerous for officers, suspects, and bystanders, and they should only be used when absolutely necessary. An officer’s decision of whether to speed after someone should always prioritize safety and safeguard human life.”

The Law Enforcement Vehicular Pursuit Reform Act of 2021 would prevent law enforcement from pursuing suspects in vehicles unless an individual is suspected of committing a violent crime, the pursuit is necessary to prevent death or serious injury, and the pursuit itself is not likely to cause death or serious harm to any person. It also provides necessary guidance for deciding when to pursue a suspect and prohibits the use of dangerous pursuit tactics such as ramming or roadblocking vehicles.

This legislation aligns with important recommendations from DC’s Police Reform Commission to strictly limit vehicle pursuits. In its newly-released report, the Commission found that vehicular pursuits are dangerous and potentially fatal, that MPD does not adhere to its own policies, and that the Council should reinforce restrictions on vehicular pursuits by prohibiting them unless a narrow set of conditions is met. 

Last year Karon Hylton-Brown, a 20-year-old DC resident, son, grandson, father, partner, friend, and beloved community member was killed after being chased by officers for evading a traffic stop on a moped. In correspondence with my office, the Acting US Attorney for the District of Columbia wrote that the investigation into the death of Karon Hylton-Brown is still ongoing. “Part of seeking justice for Karon is making sure that what happened to him never happens to anyone again,” said Councilmember Lewis George.

Restricting vehicular pursuits is also an important step in advancing traffic safety. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration reported at least “1,594 deaths in police chases from 2014 through 2017,” with nearly 300 of those deaths being bystanders. The risk posed by police chases is heightened in cities where crowds of pedestrians, cyclists, and cars share the streets.

By passing this legislation, the District would be adopting best practices in line with those recently implemented in Baltimore, MD and New Orleans, LA. Recent technological advancements have also improved law enforcement’s ability to capture descriptions of vehicles and operators, pursue informed investigations, and, if warranted, more safely apprehend offenders without vehicular pursuits.

The Law Enforcement Vehicular Pursuit Reform Act has been referred to the DC Council’s Committee on the Judiciary and Public Safety and already has a bill hearing scheduled on Thursday, May 20 at 9:30am.

“I am grateful to Councilmember Trayon White and his staff for working closely with us on this legislation and for their continued support to the Hylton-Brown family. I also want to thank DC Justice Lab for their recommendations and partnership on this bill, and to everyone fighting for justice for Karon.” 

The Law Enforcement Vehicular Pursuit Reform Act is co-introduced by Councilmembers Trayon White, Robert White, Brianne Nadeau, Mary Cheh, and Anita Bonds.