Published on: Friday, March 31, 2023

The District of Columbia failed to shake off a proposed civil rights class action alleging its Metropolitan Police Department policy of stopping and searching for guns is racially biased (article available here).

The allegations that the department’s gun recovery unit unlawfully targets Black males without reasonable suspicion or probable cause are sufficient to survive dismissal for failure to state a claim, the court ruled Wednesday.

The nine members of the unit named in the complaint aren’t entitled to qualified immunity because the allegations, if true, are clearly illegal, the court held.

“It defies credulity that a law enforcement officer would not know that stopping and searching a citizen with no reasonable articulable suspicion or probable cause was plainly unlawful." The allegations are also sufficient to proceed with claims that the city has a “policy or custom that was the ‘moving force’ behind the alleged constitutional injury,” the court added.

The court cited the testimony of one D.C. police officer that the Narcotics and Special Investigations Division, which oversees the gun recovery unit, used “illegal tactics,” and allegations that the GRU “openly displayed flags, banners, and t-shirts, depicting or alluding to their reputation for stopping and searching residents of the areas in which they operated,” which shows that policymakers were aware of their practices.

The case is Crudup v. District of Columbia, No. 20-cv-1135 (D.D.C. Mar. 29, 2023).