#DCFerguson co-founder Eugene Puryear holds sign of “Stop Jump Outs” before he testifies. (Photo by Kymone Freeman)
Racial profiling and department understaffing were the two major issues the Metropolitan Police Department is dealing with, according to a D.C. Council hearing. Protesters, witnesses, observers, and the Metropolitan Police Department (MPD) Chief Cathy Lanier and her entourage, packed the Council Chamber at the John A. Wilson Building in Northwest for a Judiciary Performance Oversight Hearing on police matters.
Over 20 witnesses gave testimonies on police understaffing and various encounters with law enforcement. “More than one-third of lieutenants and detectives, almost one-third (61 percent) of sergeants, will also be eligible to retire ,” Lanier said at the March 10 hearing. “This is the result of the “retirement bubble” on which I have been briefing to council about as long as I have been chief.”
Delroy Burton, chair of the D.C. Police Union, gave police hiring numbers before the Chief spoke. “We failed to keep our word on the things we promised,” Burton said. “We failed to plan and we plan to fail.” He said arbitration and attrition are major challenges.
According to Burton, the department lost more officers than it could hire. “The MPD lost a total of 396 sworn members 150 resignations, 217 retirements, 56 terminations, and eight disability requirements in which three members are now deceased,” he said.
Along with police understaffing, the hearing also addressed enforcement actions used by officers. Members from the #DCFerguson movement were present with small signs that displayed “Black Lives Matter” and “Stop Jump Outs.”
“We are here primarily to denounce the now, I guess, the infamous jump out policy which we believe to be a racist, militarized form of policing that is entirely unacceptable, and to address the issue by the metropolitan police and then again today by the police union that the jump outs are fantasy and don’t exist etc,” Eugene Puryear, one of the co-founders of the movement said.
He was followed by co-founder Kymone Freeman, who said, “I must start by first asking the question … is anyone present here today that thinks that for one moment that if Black cops were murdering White people at this rate that we would have the same exact results?”
He continued, “If your answer is no, than there is confirmation that we’re dealing with a racist, militarized White supremacy premise system that is basically exploiting their power on the backs and blood of people of color.”
According to a department spokesperson, there are no jump out squads in the MPD – but police behavior, as described by many citizens, contradicts that notion. One man said he observed a jump out on Minnesota Avenue N.E. the day before the hearing.
D.C. Council member Kenyon McDuffie (D-Ward 5) asked Lanier how many police officer shootings happened last year. She said four involved homicides while two did not.
“My top priority continues to be reducing violent crime in the city,” Lanier said.