Washington D.C.’s Viral New ‘Public Safety’ Bill Causes Concern Among Activists

writing on sidewalk that says divest from policing invest in communities
Zain Murdock
February 21, 2024

On February 6, the DC Council voted to advance the Secure DC Omnibus Amendment Act of 2024 to introduce a new public safety bill to the state. But who is it really keeping safe? Here are some of its key points.

The bill would expand pretrial detention, which will incarcerate more people before they’re convicted of anything. 

Some interpreted one element of the bill as criminalizing anyone in DC traveling in groups of two or more. What they’re referring to is temporary drug-free zones, a 90s-era concept that the council repealed in 2014 after deeming it unconstitutional.

The omnibus would also reinstate an anti-mask law repealed in 2021. Cops will decide when someone is wearing a mask to “commit a crime or intimidate, threaten, abuse, or harass another person.” 

Secure DC also allows cops to preview bodycam footage before writing reports and criminalizes fare evasion. 

But thanks to the resistance of organizers, there’s good news, too.

Many activists succeeded in changing the language of the previous anti-masking provision, which was even worse. A pretrial amendment will put a pause on permanent expansion. Other amendments limit forced DNA sampling and expand eligibility for record sealing and expungement.

As we approach the next vote on March 5, proponents of Secure DC claim that it will make DC safer by cracking down on Black residents while reducing police accountability,  but DC community advocates won’t let this happen without a fight.

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