Creating a society free from violence and discrimination by law enforcement is a cornerstone in the struggle for civil rights.

Washington, DC has more police per capita than any other similar-sized city in the United States. There are several local agencies including the D.C. Metropolitan Police Department (MPD), the DC Housing Authority Police, and Metro Transit Police. There are also dozens of independent federal police forces such as the United States Park Police, the Secret Service, and ICE with the same or even greater authority as the local agencies. There are thousands of “special police officers” that are licensed by the District of Columbia to carry guns and use their police power to protect private property such as universities, stores, and apartment buildings. Often these different law enforcement agencies have overlapping jurisdiction and the same ability to detain, arrest, and use force against DC residents and visitors.

The United States Constitution prohibits federal, local, and special police officers from detaining individuals without a legal reason, using excessive force against civilians, discriminating against people because of a characteristic like race, gender, or religion, or retaliating against an individual for exercising their rights to free speech or assembly.

Law enforcement agencies in the region have a long history of targeting Black and Brown communities for harassment, abuse, and violence. Throughout American history, fighting against police misconduct and police brutality has been a cornerstone of the civil rights movement. Since its founding, the Washington Lawyers’ Committee has been part of that struggle and has challenged abusive tactics by the police that have injured communities and lead to mass incarceration.

The Washington Lawyers’ Committee brings police abuse lawsuits throughout the District of Columbia, Maryland and Virginia against enforcement agencies, such as the DC Metropolitan Police, the Park Police, the Prince George’s County Police Department, the Montgomery County Police Department, and the Fairfax County Police Department. The Washington Lawyers’ Committee proudly represents clients who have suffered injustices and injuries at the hands of police.

Additionally, we issue reports on policing issues to educate the public and influence policy makers. The Committee also offer know your rights trainings to community, youth, and advocacy groups.

Learn more about some of our recent work fighting police abuse in DC, Maryland, and Virginia:

  • DC Gang Database Report – On January 16, 2024, the Washington Lawyers’ Committee and its partners released a report showing the secret racial surveillance regime operated by MPD under its “Gang Tracking and Analysis System.” The report is based on sources MPD was forced to release to the public after WLC sued multiple times under the Freedom of Information Act. Read the report here.
  • Wheeler v. American University – The Committee secured a settlement for Ms. Wheeler, an AU student who was ambushed and assaulted at home by 7 AU and MPD officers during a botched “welfare check,” and then forcibly committed to a hospital for 6 days.
  • Rowe v. PChange Protective Services, et al – The Washington Lawyers’ Committee filed suit on behalf of Mr. Rowe, a father who was brutally assaulted and detained by Special Police Officers, private officers who receive little training and are authorized under DC law to carry guns and make arrests.
  • Black Lives Matter DC v. Trump – The Committee and its partners sued to challenge federal officers’ unprovoked attack and tear-gassing of racial justice demonstrators at Lafayette Square in front of the White House.
  • Viallalta v. Maryland – The Washington Lawyers’ Committee represented Mr. Viallalta, an immigrant man, who was unconstitutionally turned over to ICE after the Maryland Department of Natural Resources had detained him for cutting down a tree without a license.