Washington Lawyers’ Committee Statement Regarding the DC Police’s Pattern and Practice of Seizing People’s Property and Keeping It for Years

WASHINGTON – For over three years, the DC government has kept the property of peaceful Black Lives Matter protesters and journalists who were arrested, but never charged. On August 13, 2020, forty demonstrators for racial justice, part of a national movement calling for police reform following the killings of George Floyd and Breonna Taylor, were arrested and had their property seized by the District without ever being charged with a crime. Five of those demonstrators, named in the lawsuit against the District, sued on behalf of a class to get their property back and end the District’s unconstitutional practice of keeping personal items. The DC Metropolitan Police Department routinely and unlawfully hold and keeps the property of people who have been arrested for years, according to a lawsuit filed by the DC ACLU and the Washington Lawyers’ Committee.

In advance of a hearing in the DC Circuit Court of Appeals on September 21, 2023, Carlos Andino, co-counsel at the Washington Lawyers’ Committee, issued the following statement:

“Law enforcement officers seized and refused to return the mobile phones of dozens of peaceful Black Lives Matter demonstrators without charging a single one. If anyone else took your property, we would call it theft. Some might even call the DC police.

“With the theft of their phones, our clients lost photos of family, friends and important memories. They have had to pay for new phones and missed work.  They continue to suffer without the police justifying why they cannot have their personal property back.”

Link to case: washlaw.org/class-action-lawsuit-challenges-d-c-police-departments-unlawful-practice-of-retaining-protestors-cell-phones-for-months/

Link to watch the hearing: youtube.com/live/Reo2wLmGbuk?si=vj3S3-uiM1GEwuKp

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