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Congresswoman Eleanor Holmes Norton

Representing the District of Columbia

Places in Washington DC

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

Jun 11, 2018
Press Release

Part of Series of Bills to Reduce the Federal Government’s Role in D.C.’s Criminal and Civil Justice Systems

WASHINGTON, D.C.—Congresswoman Eleanor Holmes Norton (D-DC) today announced that she will introduce 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.  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.”

“While we are not aware of a President having exercised his authority over MPD, this latent power should not exist,” Norton said.  “MPD’s first responsibility is to protect District residents and visitors, and it must always remain under the authority of the D.C. mayor in order to accomplish its mission.  Moreover, federalization is outdated in light of current practice.  MPD regularly assists the federal government as a matter of comity, not as an arm of the federal government, just as I am sure other local police forces in the region do.  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 also request the support of our local police department, as the President would do in any other jurisdiction.”

Under the Home Rule Act, in general, the President may federalize MPD for a period of not more than 30 days, unless a resolution passed by Congress extending such federalization is enacted into law.  Congress may terminate the President’s federalization at any time if a resolution is enacted into law.

Norton has introduced several bills this Congress to reduce the federal government’s control over local law enforcement and the local criminal and civil justice systems in the District:

  • The District of Columbia Local Prosecutor Establishment Act of 2017 (H.R. 1523) 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. laws.
  • The District of Columbia National Guard Home Rule Act (H.R. 1658) 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. 1765) 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.
  • The District of Columbia Federal Officials Residency Equality Act of 2017 (H.R. 2177) would require federal district court judges, the U.S. Attorney, and the U.S. Marshals for D.C. to live in D.C.  In nearly every other jurisdiction in the United States, such officials are required to reside within the jurisdictions where they are appointed.
  • The District of Columbia Civil Enforcement Equality Act (H.R. 4678) would allow the District to enter into contracts with private attorneys to sue on the District's behalf for violations of D.C. law that may otherwise go unpunished due to a lack of resources.  States, cities and most federal agencies have the authority to enter into such contracts to sue for violations of their laws.
  • The District of Columbia Courts Vacancy Reduction Act (H.R. 6009) would allow local District court nominees to be seated after a 30-day congressional review period, unless a resolution of disapproval is enacted into law during that period.  Currently, nominees cannot be seated without affirmative Senate approval.