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Washington, D.C. approves police reforms after days of protests against racism

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The district council for Washington, D.C. on Tuesday approved a raft of police reforms after days of protests against police brutality and racism in the U.S. capital and nationwide, sparked by the death of African-American George Floyd in police custody.

The emergency legislation, approved by a unanimous vote, comes as a number of cities rethink approaches to policing but falls short of calls by some civil rights activists to defund city police departments.

It bars the use of neck restraints, such as the one used against Floyd, and requires the release of names and images from officers' body cameras after "an officer-involved death or the serious use of force."

It also prohibits the Metropolitan Police Department from hiring people with a documented history of police misconduct and places limits on non-deadly force and the police department's acquisition of military weaponry, among other measures.

"There's no question whatsoever about whether we have to significantly reform our policing. The only question is whether we and our policing leadership are ready to step up to that challenge," said district council member Robert White.

In a statement read by the council's chairman, Phil Mendelson, Mayor Muriel Bowser said she was supportive of the legislation but thought there should be a public discussion.

D.C. police chief Peter Newsham told a news conference Monday the department had already made a number of reforms in the past two decades and would discuss concerns it had with Charles Allen, the council member who introduced the legislation.

Most Americans support the protests, which have been largely peaceful, and disapprove of U.S. President Donald Trump's reaction to them.

In 2001, the U.S. Justice Department found Washington, D.C.'s Metropolitan Police Department had a pattern or practice of excessive force as well as other issues. The investigation led to federal oversight of the department, including the appointment of an independent monitor, until 2012.



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