The Lamond indictment comes during a season of high-profile scrutiny of local law enforcement in Washington. In House Oversight Committee hearings, legislators have taken turns lambasting city officials and the U.S. attorney for allegedly soft-on-crime policies. For the first time in three decades, Congress also used its prerogative to overturn a duly enacted city law, nixing a rewrite of D.C.’s criminal code. . . .
The congressional agitation has not, however, focused on whether the city’s police department is home to a troubling number of insurrectionist sympathizers. Given the makeup of D.C.’s top Hill critics, this may not be surprising: The leader of the effort to overturn that criminal-code rewrite was Andrew Clyde, the Georgia congressman who once likened Jan. 6 rioters to folks making a “normal tourist visit” to the Capitol.
Instead, members took aim at another measure recently passed by the D.C. Council, a police-accountability bill that codifies some of the reform policies put in place following the 2020 protests against police brutality. Among other things, that’s the bill that finally orders the D.C. auditor’s study of white supremacist ties within the force. Congress voted to overturn that one, too.
Unlike with the prior congressional disapproval, though, President Joe Biden has vowed to veto this effort, which means the mandatory investigation is going to be law.
As far as I’m concerned, a real investigation can’t come a minute too soon. The idea of even a small number of domestic extremists on the force ought to be terrifying — both to federal-Washington folks worried about the security of national institutions and to hometown-D.C. folks who think safe neighborhoods require citizens to feel able to cooperate with police, something that’s tougher if there’s even a slight suspicion that officers may be part of a hate group.
“I am surprised about Shane [Lamond], but I’m not surprised about this culture because we’ve seen this in other departments across the country,” Donell Harvin, D.C.’s former homeland security chief, told me. Harvin used to meet weekly with Lamond and says the allegation of alerting Tarrio to his arrest — if true — is far over the line. “I know men and women of the D.C. police department and they’re dedicated to the job. But we definitely need to study this. Congress should commission a study.”
For the record, Harvin, who now teaches at Georgetown, doesn’t think Washington is an outlier. It’s a national problem: Law enforcement, alas, is overrepresented in extremist groups and their allies. And while the capital may be politically monolithic, most of its police live outside the city — in many cases making long commutes from places that aren’t dotted with Black Lives Matter yard signs. Lamond, for instance, lives in distant Stafford County, Va. Historically, Congress has stopped the local government from enacting the police residency requirements that exist in many other cities. If nothing else, a police residential map ought to undercut the federal-city habit of assuming the District is disconnected from the world beyond the Beltway.
What is different from the rest of the country, as we learned on Jan. 6, is that local police in Washington are also part of the defense of the Capitol, sometimes heroically so. In an age when domestic terrorism is one of the top threats, such a force needs to make sure members aren’t tied to the extremists. And if the locals in charge of the department don’t force the issue, it’s a topic where it would actually be appropriate for Congress to do so. Rather than a case of messing around with local laws in a place they don’t live, it’d be a matter of legislators looking after their own safety.
“You’d be hard-pressed to think of a city where this is a more critical issue than Washington, D.C.,” said Verheyden-Hilliard, the civil rights lawyer. “What happens the next time we go on the Jan. 6 path, which we all know could happen? What happens if there’s this festering group within the MPD that haven’t been weeded out? It’s very dangerous.”