A high-ranking police official who was known throughout the District of Columbia for her sensitivity to the community recently decided to leave public law enforcement.
Diane Groomes, who has served as the Metropolitan Police Department’s (MPD) assistant police chief since 2007, announced her retirement from the department on April 19. Reaction to her announcement was swift and positive, even from those who have taken issue with the MPD in the past.
Metropolitan Police Department Assistant Chief Diane Groomes had a good relationship with many D.C. Black leaders. (Courtesy Photo)
“Since her first day on the job, Diane recognized the importance of community policing and the great responsibility that comes with wearing an MPD badge,” Acting Chief of Police Peter Newsham said. “She embedded herself in the community because she truly cared about the District’s people and their well-being. For the past three decades, I have had the honor to call Diane a trusted colleague and friend and wish her the best.”
Groomes is set to become head of security for The Wharf, a huge commercial project located in Ward 6 along the Potomac River. Groomes did not respond to requests for comment by the AFRO.
D.C. Council member Trayon White (D-Ward 8), who had public differences with city law enforcement agencies before his election to the District’s legislative body, told the AFRO that he will miss Groomes.
“She is a great example of a police officer who believed in community relations,” White said. “She went above and beyond to engage the people and we hate to lose her. How can you replace somebody like that?”
Groomes, who holds a bachelor’s degree from Indiana University in Pennsylvania, joined the police department in October 1990. During her 27-year tenure, Groomes progressed through the ranks due to her innovative and potent manner of fighting crime by utilizing the community as partners.
In 2005, Police Chief Charles Ramsey promoted Groomes to Commander of the First District, which consists of the District’s business and political center.
As assistant police chief of patrol services and school safety, Groomes was the force behind officers leaving their patrol cars and walking the streets to protect residents. She also created school resources officer programs for charter schools, which has been used as a national model.
White was among several residents who posed for pictures in front of the Big Chair in the Anacostia business district in Southeast on April 27. While Groomes herself was not present for the photo opportunity, sponsored by anti-gang violence activist Ron Moten, there was tremendous goodwill for her.
“Groomes supported our church’s walk-throughs in Simple City ,” Minister Roger Lovett of the First Rock Baptist Church told the AFRO. “She outreached to us. When the Men’s ministry walked the streets at night, she made sure that police officers were nearby to protect us.”
Civil rights attorney Johnny Barnes has been known to be critical of the police department and its tactics. As the leader of the Washington, D.C area chapter of the ACLU, Barnes played a key role in shutting down the controversial police check points in the Trinidad section of Ward 5 a few years ago.
Nevertheless, Barnes spoke highly of Groomes.
“When I heard she retired, I sent her a message on Facebook saying that it was a sad day in the District of Columbia,” Barnes said. He recalled a time during the Trinidad checkpoint period when approximately 15 youth confronted Groomes about the tactic.
“She stood right among them and stated emphatically and dramatically her point of view,” he said. “The young people didn’t agree with her, but they respected her for taking the time to talk to them.”
Ward 5 advisory neighborhood commissioner Kathy Henderson told the AFRO that Groomes put the “community” in community policing, adding that “while she wasn’t perfect, she acted the way police officers weren’t expected to.”
Eric Weaver, chairman of the National Association for the Advancement of Returning Citizens, told the AFRO that Groomes embraced his constituency.
“She was definitely an exception to the rule when it came to returning citizens,” Weaver said. “She understood our population and was genuine in dealing with us.”
Ronald Hampton, a former D.C. police officer who has established a national reputation as a critic of racism in police forces, told the AFRO that Groomes cared about the community more than the chief who appointed her.
“Cathy Lanier had a good public relations machine but Groomes cared about the community,” said Hampton. “In my opinion, she would have made a better chief than Newsham. She is sincere and listens to what people have to say.”