DCFerguson movement protests controversial police tactics at DC Council hearing

About a dozen people holding signs reading "Stop Jump Outs" showed up at a police oversight hearing at the D.C. Council on Tuesday.

All of them were there to protest what they believe is a racially-biased tactic used by D.C. police and targets black communities.

But Police Chief Cathy Lanier denied it is happening and she was backed up by the mayor.

A group of activists and protesters from a half a dozen movements, including DCFerguson, showed up at the D.C. city council on Tuesday claiming D.C. police officers were terrorizing black communities with plain clothes officers jumping out of unmarked cars.

They say there is a pattern of brutality and harassment. But Police Chief Cathy Lanier denied their claim and told council members the tactics used are part of normal everyday police work.

The "Stop Jump-Outs" signs came up as the hearing got underway and many protesters held them in the air during portions of the testimony. Some people, unhappy with what they were hearing, heckled the speakers.

"I would invite the individual in the audience making the comment to share their tactics also," said D.C. Police Union President Delroy Burton.

Having signed up to do so, several protesters testified about what they see happening on the streets.

"Yesterday with these eyes right here, I saw them jump out and they had him in the corner, we call it pressing him out, but interrogating him, figuring out if he was a suspect to a crime," activist Trayon White testified. "I saw it yesterday, so I don't know who is saying they don't have the jump outs or vice unit in D.C., but that's far from the truth. Come to Southeast with me and I'll show you where they'll be."

Although admitting the police department has officers working plain clothes in unmarked cars, they say they are not jump outs, and instead, work mainly in the gun recovery unit and narcotics.

"We have gotten lots of complaints that we investigated that were alleged to be MPD officers, that were in fact, when we looked into the circumstances, were not MPD officers," said Chief Lanier. "Some of them were very high-profile cases that got lots of coverage in the news media, and when we finally tracked down the details, we found out that MPD was not involved at all. Because we are not the only law enforcement agency that operates in this city."

Burton said jump outs are a fantasy and his officers are not terrorizing black communities.

"The term ‘jump out' is a slang term that the community came up with any time the police come around," said Burton. "They also call us the feds, so it's a misnomer. It's a red herring of an argument to say that police should not come in the community. Particularly, the communities plagued with the highest levels of crime."

D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser was unaware of Tuesday's protest at the city council, but when asked about alleged jump outs, she supported the police.

"I think that we have a very responsive police department that has gained the trust of our community and made our streets safer," she said.

In her testimony, Chief Lanier said the body camera program is about to expand with the department ordering 250 new cameras that will be assigned to frontline officers.

The announcement on the body cameras goes hand-in-hand with the complaints on so-called jump outs. The whole idea is to have video and audio evidence of encounters with the police with the intention of cutting down on complaints.

Lanier said as the program expands, the body cameras will be assigned to vice and the gun recovery unit as well as frontline officers.