Norton Calls on House to Repeal President’s Authority to Federalize D.C. Police Department in New Police Reform Bill

Jun 10, 2020
Press Release
House expected to pass police reform bill soon

WASHINGTON, D.C. — Congresswoman Eleanor Holmes Norton (D-DC) today called on the House to add her District of Columbia Police Home Rule Act (H.R. 3092), which would repeal the President’s authority to federalize the D.C. police department, to the sweeping police reform bill the House is expected to pass soon, the Justice in Policing Act of 2020. Last week, the Trump administration contemplated federalizing the D.C. police department in response to the protests in D.C. against police brutality.

“The President of the United States has no authority to federalize state and local police departments, and the President should have no authority to federalize the D.C. police department,” Norton said. “This is not only about D.C.’s right to self-government. After the Trump administration ordered federal police officers to attack peaceful protestors in D.C. last week, it is frightening to think what the Trump administration would do with a large local police force under its command. The District of Columbia Mayor, not the executive branch of the federal government, knows best how to deploy the D.C. police department.”

The Home Rule Act gives the President the authority to federalize the D.C. police department. When Congress debated giving D.C. home rule in the late 1960s and early 1970s, there was opposition to giving D.C. control over its police department because it was a majority-black city.

Last week, Norton called on the House to add her District of Columbia National Guard Home Rule Act (H.R. 1090), which would give the D.C. Mayor control over the D.C. National Guard, to the fiscal year 2021 National Defense Authorization Act, which the House is expected to pass next month. The President controls the D.C. National Guard, while the governors of the states and the three territories with National Guards control their respective Guards.