More than 60 District residents testified at a Nov. 3 D.C. Council hearing at the Wilson Building to discuss the state of the police department, crime, and community policing, during a forum on the Metropolitan Police Department.
April Goggans spoke out at the hearing about police remedies of enhancing their presence in Black neighborhoods, which results in more Blacks being beaten or killed unjustly. (Courtesy Photo)
The State of the Metropolitan Police Department: Crime, Community Policing, & Selecting the Next Chief of Police forum focused largely on what to do about the tone and nature of police interactions with young Black people. However, the forum quickly turned into a call to end profiling once city officials began discussing an increase of police in high crime areas.
“We do not need more police,” said April Goggans of Black Lives Matter DC., “Stop putting the police in my community because I’m tired of them killing people and I’m tired of jumping out of my car in front of them because of what they are doing to the kids on my street.” There have been three people killed by police in D.C. this year.
But with seemingly random violence – a common occurrence east of the river – some residents are at a loss for how to address the crime without making young, Black youth the targets of surveillance. “I don’t know what the answer is at this stage because the young, Black men urinating against the side of my home and being a menace to my neighbors by sitting on their cars, are technically, not committing crimes,” Anacostia resident Rosa Taylor told the AFRO. “My family and I have been in this house for more than 40 years and for the first time in my life, I am afraid to be here. So, there needs to be some conversation about these young adults who are bringing down the quality of life, without immediately discussing the police.”
Taylor and her neighbors on Maple Leaf and High Streets told the AFRO, it is often frustrating when issues of safety also include codes of conduct, like not throwing garbage into yards and keeping others awake with loud conversations and music. “I call the police constantly, not that it does any good . . . these are officers who are trained to fight crime, not babysit grown idiots,” Marva Sherman told the AFRO. “I don’t want the police out there with them because I feel it endangers the cops.”
Metropolitan Police Department data shows that in the last 30 days, crime in Ward 8 showed a marked decline from the same period in 2015; however, residents pointed out the resistance many have to reporting crimes – especially those that include violence – and a general belief that reporting crime will not end it. Police, then, remain the first-line of intervention with neighborhood misconduct cases.
“For anybody to say that we don’t need any more police is ludicrous to me,” said Paul Trantham, an ANC Commissioner in Ward 8. “Because if somebody breaks into my house, if somebody breaks into my car, if someone hits my child, if someone even attempts to do some harm to me, who is the first person you think I’m going to call? I have been trained all my life – the police.”
Others expressed sadness over the resignation of former D.C. Police Chief Cathy Lanier, who announced her resignation in August, and said they believed a lot of the anxiety within the different communities reflected the uncertainty of who was taking the reins. “Lanier did a fantastic job of canvassing every neighborhood and community in the city. She ensured that each Ward understood what to expect from the police, as well as what was expected from us to keep crime at bay,” Ward 5 resident Charlotte Founder told the AFRO. “Crime is actually down, but I feel less safe now than I did two or three years ago. Perhaps once a new chief is named, that security will return.”