The Public Safety Meet & Greet was this morning at the Swift apartments, above Safeway on Georgia Avenue. (Nice building, by the way!)
As a summary, the meeting was more presentation than any meet or greet, and covered the same information we’ve heard at the emergency PSA 407 meeting on March 21 and other ANC meetings. The difference this time was that two different DC Councilmembers attended (as well as two candidates, Leon Andrews and Brandon Todd), shining more attention on this issue and hopefully bringing more government action to a solution.
A large number of residents attended. Lots of new faces for me, which says something considering the number of Petworth meetings I attend. (Not saying the new faces don’t attend meetings, just new to me.) I thought it was great to see and hear from residents from larger areas than at other local PSA and ANC meetings.
Also in attendance were several ANC commissioners from 4C and 1A: Taalib-Din Uqdah (looking awesome), Vann-Di Galloway, Zach Teutsch and John-Paul Hayworth from 4C, Kent Boese and Rashida Brown from 1A. (There might have been others, but I didn’t meet them.)
I spoke briefly with At-Large Councilmember Anita Bonds, who organized the Meet & Greet. CM Bonds talked about the rationale behind holding the meeting, and what she hoped the residents would gain from it.
“I know from talking with the 4D Commander (Manlapaz), that he’s looking for community involvement to help prevent and deal with crime,” Ms Bonds said. “A lot of the shootings recently are caused by a few young people in certain areas.”
ANC 4C Commissioner Zach Teutsch said that while “it’s clear there’s been a recent uptick in violence in our area, and that makes me really sorry from a neighborhood standpoint, it’s heartening to see Councilmember Bonds organize this meeting to get the community together.”
The meeting kicked off with Councilmember Bonds talking about the importance of the meeting to allow residents to meet 4D MPD leadership and for MPD to hear resident issues. (Think of it as a nicer PSA meeting, basically.) She appreciated that the Petworth and Park View communities took the time to meet today with MPD leadership. She said that her neighborhood went through similar issues, “I know how you feel,” she said. She went on to say that she has been hearing from Ward 4 residents, “especially at the recent (3/21 emergency PSA) meeting with Lt. Crawford at the 4D substation on Park Road.” She hoped this meeting would allow residents to “learn what MPD is doing, and how citizens can come closer to public safety issues. “This is about all of us,” she said. “We need to help MPD, as perpetrators are all around,” meaning crimes of opportunity are prevalent. “We all want safety first.”
CM Bonds then introduced ANC 4C Chair Vann-Di Galloway, who spoke about the benefit of this meeting with the at-large councilmember, with hopes the new incoming councilmember would take up the effort to deal with the crime in our area.
Kent Boese, ANC 1A Chair, then spoke about how crime doesn’t respect boundaries, as Park View and Petworth were both dealing with these issues. “I love that Councilmember Bonds is hosting this meeting,” Boese said. He said that “strong communities are those that share information, get to know each other and know their MPD leadership.”
CM Bonds then introduced 4D Commander Wilfredo Manlapaz who spoke at length about wanting community involvement and touched on some of the things MPD has done lately to respond to crime after the fact. This includes a new camera at 8th & Jefferson, as well as mobile light rigs set up in the area and special patrols.
He talked about the 9 PSAs in 4D and that there’s been some movement in leadership (lieutenants moving between PSAs and districts). He suggested people go to mpd.dc.gov to see a list of their local PSA leadership, see their profiles and get their contact information. He also recommended that people sign up for the MPD listservs: “We read your emails and try respond right away. When you see a helicopter circling and send an email to the listserv, we try to find out what’s going on and share that.”
He also added that they can’t be in front of the computer at all times, “We have to be out on patrol, but we do try to respond as quickly as we can.”
He said his PSA managers (lieutenants) are more than willing to attend local civic meetings, especially if residents want to organize a community meeting in their homes, MPD will come and speak. Engaging with residents is important.
He responded to a resident question about a shortage of detectives in the department. “Do we have enough detectives? Look, we have 25, 26 detectives, and even if we doubled that we could use more.” He said that with technology now, detectives have more avenues to pursue criminals after a crime, such as video, cell phone tracking, credit cards, etc. “It’s not like back in the 80s where if you were mugged and lost your cash, if no one got a description the case pretty much went unsolved. Now there’s more ways to investigate, but it takes more time. So yes, we could always use more detectives.”
He went on to say the biggest problem the department is facing is retirement. The department had a big growth spurt in the late 80s, with more than 1,500 officers hired, and a large number of senior leadership (“white shirts”) are getting ready to retire when their 25 years of service are up. And he said, there are more older leaders than young. “Look, there are some qualified young lieutenants and sergeants, but it takes time to move up the ranks, and that middle rank is thinner right now.”
Commissioner Rashida Brown (SMD 1A10) asked about coordination between 3D and 4D. Commander Manlapaz responded that 3D and 4D do coordinate, and while he can’t talk about specifics, they do conduct joint operations across the PSAs and the districts.
Another resident pointed out that nighttime PSA meetings were not convenient for residents (something we’ve heard before). Senior citizens aren’t coming out for evening meetings, and it’s hard for parents and others who are working. Saturday mornings seem popular.
Commissioner John-Paul Hayworth (SMD 4C07) asked about a comprehensive plan to deal with crime. “We’ve had similar meetings, is there a plan?”
Commander Manaplaz spoke about new cameras, new power shift officers, and again asked the community to call if they see something suspicious.
(So yeah, I’d say if there’s a plan coming from the Wilson building, it hasn’t be shared yet. I mean, it’s only been 6 months. No rush.)
A resident asked what training was being done to prevent the type of police violence seen in Ferguson, Baltimore and other places around the country. Commander Manlapaz said he’d share the contact information for the Training Commander, but that training for officers was happening. The answer caused some grumbling from residents, but to Commander Manalapaz’s defense, he wasn’t at the meeting to discuss that topic. On the other hand, it’s a vastly important topic — community relations and engagement is more than just meetings and 911 calls.
Another resident asked about a Citizen’s Police Academy, and Manlapaz said one exists and he could share info (PDF here.)
Two residents spoke about how MPD has been working hard and deserves credit. A resident of 5th and Crittenden spoke about the crime issues in her area, and appreciate the MPD presence, movable lights and cameras.
A woman identified herself as the owner of Andrene’s Caribbean & Soul Food (308 Kennedy St NW) and said that she see’s police officers eating at her restaurant and trying to connect to residents. “You see MPD eating on one side of the restaurant, gangs members eating on the other side!”
Councilmember Bonds then introduced Clinton Lacey, the director of the Department of Youth Rehabilitation Services department (dyrs.dc.gov). Director Lacey spoke about the importance of support and education for youth coming back into the community and their homes post-detention. “We prepare young people to return to the community and make a successful transition back to their homes.” He also said the city must continue to invest in the communities and families to ensure a better transition.
(From a young man I know who just got out of jail, he seems desperate to find work. I’d like to think DYRS is offering assistance to him, but sounds like not. I’ll make that suggestion to him…)
Then CM Bonds introduced the two Ward 4 candidates who showed up at the meeting. Brandon Todd thanked the Commander for his efforts, and then spoke about his commitment to bringing government to the Ward, restarting orange hat patrols and engaging with the community.
Leon Andrews spoke about the need to extend the city’s commitment to youth, as well as crime prevention and enforcement. He also said that the city’s budget priorities should echo the community needs for policing, community support and youth needs.
Councilmember Bonds then introduced Councilmember Alyssa Silverman, who spoke briefly about being available for the community. Bonds then ended the meeting (on time!) and thanked the Swift and it’s manager Javier Gonzalas for hosting the meeting.
Pictures from the event are below. Descriptions are available when you enlarge the photo: