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Congresswoman Eleanor Holmes Norton

Representing the District of Columbia

Places in Washington DC

Norton Introduces Bill to Strip President of Authority to Federalize D.C. Police Department

Jun 4, 2019
Press Release

WASHINGTON, D.C.—Congresswoman Eleanor Holmes Norton (D-DC) today announced that she has introduced legislation to eliminate the President’s authority to federalize the local District of Columbia police department, the Metropolitan Police Department (MPD).  The President has no authority to federalize any other local or state police department.

“While we are not aware of a President having exercised his authority over MPD, this anti-home-rule power should not exist,” Norton said.  “The first priority and responsibility of MPD must be to the residents of the District as well as visitors to the nation’s capital.  Federalization of our local police is also unnecessary because MPD, like other police forces in the region, regularly assists the federal government as a matter of comity, not as an arm of the federal government.  There are approximately 30 federal police departments under the President’s control in the District.  In the case of a federal emergency, the President can unilaterally deploy these federal officers, as well as the D.C. National Guard, to address it, and the President can also request the support of MPD, just as he can do in any other jurisdiction.”

Under the Home Rule Act, “whenever the President…determines that special conditions of an emergency nature exist which require the use of the [MPD] for Federal purposes, he may direct the Mayor to provide him, and the Mayor shall provide, such services of the [MPD] as the President may deem necessary and appropriate.”  In general, the President may federalize MPD for a period of not more than 30 days, unless a resolution is passed by Congress and signed by the President to extend the federalization.

Norton has introduced several bills this Congress to reduce the federal government’s control over local District matters. This bill is the eighth in Norton’s Free and Equal D.C. series:

  • The District of Columbia Paperwork Reduction Act (H.R. 735) would eliminate the congressional review period for D.C. bills.
  • The District of Columbia Local Prosecutor Home Rule Act (H.R. 917) would allow the District to prosecute all crimes committed under its local laws.  Currently, the U.S. Attorney for the District prosecutes almost all crimes committed by adults under local D.C. law.
  • The District of Columbia National Guard Home Rule Act (H.R. 1090) would give the D.C. Mayor the authority to deploy the D.C. National Guard for local matters.  Unlike governors of the states, and even territories, the District’s chief executive officer has no authority over its local Guard.
  • The District of Columbia Home Rule Clemency Act (H.R. 1378) would give the District exclusive authority, like the states and territories, to grant clemency to offenders convicted under its local laws.  Currently, this authority is exercised in D.C. by the President.
  • A bill to require the Library of Congress to install the District of Columbia seal in the Main Reading Room of the Thomas Jefferson Building of the Library of Congress (H.R. 1318).  Currently, the stained-glass windows contain the seals of all states and territories that existed when the building was constructed, except for the D.C. seal, which was readily available at the time and should have been depicted.
  • The District of Columbia Home Rule Non-Discrimination Act (H.R. 1408) would eliminate the applicability of the Religious Freedom Restoration Act of 1993 to the District.
  • The District of Columbia Courts Home Rule Act (H.R. 2769) would give D.C. authority over the jurisdiction and organization of the local D.C. courts.