By James Wright, Special to the AFROjwright@afro.com

D.C. Council member Charles Allen recently held a public hearing on police misconduct in the District of Columbia, particularly Wards 7 and 8. He got an earful.

Allen, a Democrat who represents Ward 6, held two hearings July 12 on police misdeeds, with one in the morning at the John A. Wilson Building and another in the evening at the Deanwood Recreation Center in Ward 7. Allen said he wanted to hear the view point of residents after several highly-publicized incidents in Deanwood.

Activists and District residents are criticizing the Metropolitan Police Department. (Courtesy Image/Logo)

“Community policing isn’t just a buzz word – it’s a culture shift that involves neighborhood residents in preventing crime and prioritizing safety concerns,” the Council member said. “But in order for community policing to work, we need trust between the community and law enforcement. I hope to create a space where residents can feel comfortable coming forward to share their experiences.”

Nearly 100 residents attended the Deanwood hearing. Joining Allen were his colleagues, D.C. Council members Vincent Gray (D-Ward 7), Robert White (D-At Large), and Anita Bonds (D-At Large) at the central table listening to witnesses. D.C. Council member Trayon White (D-Ward 8) attended the event but left early.

Most residents wanted police protection in the community but not harassment.

Ward 7 Advisory Neighborhood Commissioner Anthony Lorenzo Green has been outspoken regarding the June 13 incident at Nook’s Barber and Beauty Shop where officers, supposedly looking for illegal guns, were accused of harassing residents. He told the council members that this type of activity is illegal and must stop because his residents feel unfairly targeted.

There were other issues that Allen and his colleagues heard about regarding police misconduct. Tamika Spellman is a peer advocacy and policy fellow for HIPS, an organization that supports sex workers in the District. Spellman said that the police are no friends to sex workers who are often the victims of crimes.

“Sex workers and drug users are often over surveilled by the police and are arrested and harassed,” Spellman said. “The police aren’t protecting all communities. Primarily Black and Brown folks are being hyper-criminalized and surveilled, and we know that police interactions for Black and Brown folks are often violent.”

In response to the testimony, Gray said, “There are a decreasing number of police officers who live in the city,” he said. “Only 16 percent of police officers are District residents. We need our folks in D.C. to police in D.C.”