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Bowser and then-chief Newsham both said they did not know felons-in-possession was not being applied citywide. The initiative remains in place today and has the support of Acting Chief Contee. Biden-appointed Acting U.S. Attorney Channing D. Phillips recently announced that felons-in-possession policy would remain in place even though a former assistant U.S. Attorney called it “racist, unjust and unlawful” and said that Black people comprise 97 percent of felons-in-possession charges.
The racial disparities perpetuated by these kinds of federal initiatives has been known for decades. James Forman Jr.’s 2017 book “Locking Up Our Own: Crime and Punishment in Black America” notes that during the 1990s, then-U.S. Attorney for D.C. Eric Holder said of Operation Ceasefire, which encouraged police to “stop cars, search cars, seize guns”: “I’m not going to be naive about it. The people who will be stopped will be young black males, overwhelmingly.”
GRU’s strategies resemble Holder’s Operation Ceasefire. He encouraged officers to “wrangle consent,” Forman wrote, and “blur the distinction between commands that a driver must obey (such as providing license and registration, or stepping out of the car) and requests that he may decline (such as giving permission to search).”
“But it was more than fear of crime or the credibility of black law enforcement officials that sold Operation Ceasefire,” Forman continued. “Also critical was the fact that the program targeted guns, not drugs.”