Partnership for Civil Justice settles landmark lawsuit against DC police

DC police were seriously thuggish against demonstrators during the 2001 Bush inaugural. They infiltrated peace groups for no reason. Undercover cops beat and pepper sprayed demonstrators without cause. Most appallingly, they suspended their own procedures so they could beat protesters and not have to report it. The Partnership for Civil Justice sued and has just won a landmark consent decree that will force the DC police to end their noxious, brutal, harassing tactics.

This lawsuit uncovered and exposed the police department’s long-term domestic spying operation in which officers were sent undercover to infiltrate protest groups in the absence of any allegations of criminal activity. This led to a DC Council investigation and efforts to reign in police spying, incorporated into the First Amendment Rights and Police Standards Act which became effective last year. This lawsuit also revealed that felonious attacks on lawful protesters along the parade route who were beaten and pepper sprayed were carried out by MPD plain-clothed detectives on an undercover counter-intelligence detail. The MPD initially denied that these men were their officers until PCJ established it in the litigation.

Translation: The police lied, then got trapped by their own lies. Undercover thugs beat legal demonstrators then lie about it. Charming.

A critical change as a result of this litigation regards use of force against demonstrators. “This litigation uncovered the fact that the MPD had suspended use of force reporting requirements during demonstrations,” stated Carl Messineo, attorney and co-founder of the Partnership for Civil Justice. “In other words, the police had been given a green light to assault protesters knowing that they would not have to report their actions or acknowledge that force had been used.”This shocking and unconscionable practice has now been brought to an end.

And, some icing on the cake, “yesterday, it was announced that Chief Ramsey would be leaving the MPD.”

The Partnership for Civil Justice is a member of the national ANSWER Coalition steering committee.


  1. No doubt this was a great legal victory, but what is the value of a consent decree signed with people who violated their own rules to begin with. As far as I can tell, this has about the same value as the various consent decrees signed by Microsoft over the years – none.

    But I’m willing to be corrected, since I’m no legal eagle (not even a legal sparrow).

  2. There’s a similar decree here in L.A. It’s federally mandated and LAPD has been forced to follow it. Sure, they sometimes stonewall and slow things down and progress has been made.

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