WASHINGTON - "We have to do something now, address the crime trends now," said Metropolitan Police Department Acting Chief Pamela Smith Tuesday when she spoke with FOX 5 about the city’s new anti-crime legislation.
Smith, a veteran law enforcer, took over the District’s police department earlier this year as violent crime rates rose sharply across the city.
"I fully support this legislation," she said. "I wasn't here at the beginning of the year. I was in the District of Columbia. And so, we recognize as crime trends increase - and even as they decrease - we have to do something."
Smith said the Addressing Crime Trends Now Act, or ACT Now plan, unveiled by D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser Monday will give police the tools needed to combat trending crimes in the nation’s capital.
Smith spoke with FOX 5 Tuesday and addressed certain aspects of the plan.
"The Metropolitan Police Department has had a long-standing restriction on chokeholds. I support that completely, 100%. What we want to do with this particular legislation is clarify the neck restraints, serious use of force versus incidental contact.
What we're finding is that with the legislation as it's written, when we attempt, or our officers attempt, to control the movement of a suspect, whether he or she is engaged with a suspect who is an armed individual or someone whom they are trying to stop from or harming themselves, we're finding that our officers are having incidental contact with the neck in order to control the movement of that individual.
And so, what we want the legislature to be able to do is to give our officers the opportunity – when there is incidental contact - to not be considered serious use of force."
"Chairwoman Pinto introduced in July a bill that allowed us to have pursuits in certain circumstances.
This particular legislation is just asking to make that a permanent change for the department.
We're not doing anything any different then what we’ve been doing thus far. When an officer reasonably believes that a suspect is engaged in any criminal activity of violence or poses an imminent threat or death to public or a person, the officers have the right to pursue.
We're just asking that this legislation makes that permanent.
We have policy in place that creates very good layers of supervision when that officer makes that decision to pursue a particular vehicle or a suspect that's been engaged in a violent criminal activity.
But we do have layers in our policy that is very restrictive. we actually have one of the most restricted pursuit policies across most police agencies.
So, we find that giving them the opportunity to reasonably have the opportunity to pursue in certain circumstance will certainly assist us with the trending crime that's been happening across the District of Columbia."
"I've spent a lot of time in the community and the community wants us to do something when it comes to these, this theme that we’re seeing of juveniles and individuals wearing masks in order to commit criminal activity.
This gives our officers the opportunity to engage those individuals who are committing these types if crimes.
This is not a new law. It was a law that was in place in 1982. We're just asking to have that law to be reinstated.
There's been a lot of act criminal activity specifically related to wearing ski masks - and we're specifically talking about ski masks, individuals wearing masks for the purpose of committing criminal activity or intimidation or fear.
That’s what it's going to do. it's going to give our officers enough room to be able to engage and have contact with these individuals."
According to data released by D.C. police, homicides are up 33%, robberies have increased 70% and violent crime in total has risen by 41%.
New data also shows there have been over 800 carjackings in D.C. this year – more than double the total number of carjackings reported in 2022.