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There has been much talk — and anger — over the reports that the Trump Administration has asserted the right to “take over” the D.C. Metropolitan Police Department. The Washington Post is quoting D.C. Police Chief Peter Newsham as saying that the mayor “disagrees that the president has the authority to take over the police department. She believes it is a legal question to do that without her consent.” If so, she is mistaken. It is not a “take over” but it does not require the mayor’s consent. President Donald Trump can demand the deployment of D.C. police and the mayor is bound by law to accede to the request.
Washington is first and foremost a federal enclave and the creation of Congress. it is subject to the limits of Home Rule and the federal government has far greater leeway in the use of personnel within its borders than other cities.
“(a) Notwithstanding any other provision of law, whenever the President of the United States determines that special conditions of an emergency nature exist which require the use of the Metropolitan Police force for federal purposes, he may direct the Mayor to provide him, and the Mayor shall provide, such services of the Metropolitan Police force as the President may deem necessary and appropriate.”
First and foremost, “emergency” is not clearly defined. I have been a long critic of Congress creating such sweeping laws without meaningful conditions or criteria. That was the case with the National Emergencies Act, which we discussed in relation to the funding of the Southern border wall. It is highly doubtful that a court would question whether rioting is an emergency but the law itself seems to leave that designation to the President.
Second, the law is written in mandatory terms without no qualifications. The law gives the President the discretion (“may direct”) and gives the Mayor a mandatory obligation (“shall provide”) the services specified by the President. There is nothing about Mayor Muriel E. Bowser (D) agreeing or consenting to the demand. She must provide the services.
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