The meeting was well attended, an overflow actually, and I think the overall impression I have is that MPD is really doing the best they can with the hand they’ve been dealt. The vast majority of the meeting was discussion by MPD about the ongoing investigations. Interesting, and I’m glad their on the case, but to me that’s hardly the point.
It was asked of Lanier if she needed more resources, she said “no”, and proclaimed that MPD is patrolling the alleys and hotspots, we just aren’t seeing them. But I wonder how she would answer if you asked her privately rather than in front of Councilwoman Bowser.
Bowser didn’t have much to say, and cut the questioning short in deference to the ANC needing to cover other business. I think Bowser needs to make herself available at a meeting where the only topic will be public safety and getting guns off the street. This forum was not really conducive to getting any answers or asking any questions because of the SRO crowd and the lack of time. Maybe that’s what they want. Personally I would like to see Bowser and Fenty attend a meeting solely on the topic of what the city is going to do different (i.e. are they going to treat gun crime seriously or not?).
There was a some patronizing talk about how the people in the neighborhood need to be more involved and, from Lanier, a whole ridiculous spiel about how we need to take time to go down to every sentencing at superior court to make sure the judges do the right thing. Really? That’s the answer? If only we’d go to a few sentencing hearings that’d somehow convince young men that carrying guns is a bad idea?
That’s not the problem. The city council can make sure the judges do the right thing with one stroke of their pen. They, and they alone, can assure some minimum floor punishment for repeat dangerous offenders who keep getting caught with guns. If the city council would stand up for the citizens of this city instead of continuing to cow-tow to a small minority of radicals that think any punishment for crime is a form of racism, if the city would implement serious mandatory minimum penalties for repeat offenders, then we might get somewhere. Continues after the jump.
You know the old saying, even a broken clock tells the correct time twice a day? As much as Marion Berry is the butt of a lot of jokes in this town, he was right about one thing when he said back in ’05 that if the city was truly serious about putting an end to the killing here they would make any gun possession punishable by a mandatory 10 years. He’s right. 10 years for any possession is extreme, but he’s 100% right. Mandatory minimums are unpopular now, and in some cases for good reason. And while I personally agree that the federal mandatory minimums for crack cocaine trafficking are too severe compared to other punishments, one thing cannot be overlooked: the staggering drop in crack trafficking after their implementation.
Overall I appreciated what Lanier had to say, she’s clearly on top of things as much as can be, but the police are clearly hampered in this city by the revolving door downtown that puts dangerous offenders back on the streets with little or no consequences.
A senior police officer was standing near me, I won’t identify him/her because, clearly from Lanier and the Commander’s comments the MPD’s official position is not to run down the ineffective leadership of the council and mayor, but he/she told me that just last week his officers had picked up the same half-dozen characters in 4D, some of whom have pending MURDER cases against them, wandering around our streets with guns.
This is insanity.
One of the ANC commissioners also echoed the line that it’s the neighbor’s fault this is all happening. A woman who lives on Buchanan Street was commenting on the various nefarious activities that happen behind her house, and how she can’t even let her two little girls out to play, and the ANC commissioner (sorry, didn’t get his name – he sat on the far left corner of the front) said “do you know who your ANC is?” I mean, really? It’s her fault? She’s come to a meeting after work to ask important questions, dragging along her two small children, and this is his answer? This fellow also suggested later that the real problem wasn’t people running around with guns with no fear of any consequences, no, the real problem is there aren’t enough “job programs” for these offenders. Yep. I’m sure that all three of the shooters from last week just go to bed a-cryin’ every night “if I only had a job.” If someone knows this fellow’s name (Joe Martin, you know who I’m talking about – please tell us) I think the people who live in his area of the ANC should know that he seems to think they are part of the problem since they (like me) don’t know who he is. There may be a good reason no one knows who he is.
Bottom line, there need to be another meeting that isn’t rushed and isn’t focused on the why’s and how’s of the investigations into these particular crimes from last week. While it’s important for MPD to investigate crimes what we REALLY NEED is to focus on stopping future crimes by making the price too high for gun offenders and (as always) a few non-invisible patrols by MPD might help.
We need Fenty and Bowser to address what they plan to do moving forward about gun crime in this city. Do they plan to make gun crime a serious priority or do they plan to continue to allow people to die? It’s pretty simple.
Christopher took notes as well:
The meeting opened with Commander Linda Brown ([email protected]) talking about the procedures and goals of area officers. She fielded questions and released as much information as she could without compromising any planned actions, and urged citizens to report any and everything to the officer in charge of their street. That information (along with all POCs) should be up on the website today, as promised by Chief Cathy Lanier, so that residents can build a relationship with their blocks officer, and not have to call 911.
Chief Lanier ([email protected]) showed up a bit later and took over the question and answer session, also doing her best to answer everything as in detail as possible. Yesterday’s discussion on the root of the gun problem was weighing heavily on my mind, so I took the opportunity to ask her directly what we could do to get the departments hands untied, and to ensure that the criminals and thugs that they picked up would be dealt with, and not just released by soft judges. Chief Lanier advised the start of a community based court watch to monitor the progress of offenders as they move through the system, and gave the POC Cliff Keenan (202.220.5500, pretrial services agency) as someone who has seen success with this initiative. With this, you could see where the ball is dropped, and who dropped it.
The DC gov. website is a wealth of knowledge…I feel twice as informed just in the 20 minutes I’ve spent looking through this morning. I encourage everyone to get on and look around, shoot some emails, and make your voice heard. It was very frustrating last night to hear some of the comments and complaints towards the Police, especially when it seems like the real failure happens somewhere beyond the initial arrest. Familiarize yourself with the judges and committee members, and let them know how you feel about their actions!
From here we got into the actual agenda of the meeting, which I will try to summarize and quickly work through.
First, the median/church parking resolution was voted on and passed. The community will get its median and the church will still have its parking. Thanks to Anna Chamberlain and DDOT for getting this taken care of.
Next was a status of the compromises between Kendejah Restaurant and the surround community. Kendejah has elected to close at 1am during the week (except nights before government holidays) and to stop serving alcohol at 12 in order to have longer hours on the weekends/gov. holidays with alcohol being served until 3am, doors closing at 4am.
Carter Barron East Neighborhood Association spoke on zoning issues pertaining to 16th St NW. They want a requirement for new institutions to meet and discuss with the community, to have a level of transparency, before moving into the community. One of the issues at hand is the BZA application for the Academy for Ideal Education, located at 1501 Gallatin Street, which would like to expand and increase its student body.
The friends of 16th Street Parks have scheduled a bulletin board build for this weekend (11/22, 9AM) at the park in the 1300 block of Hamilton. Volunteers are needed, and you can contact Sean Wieland at smwieland (at) yahoo (dot) com for more information.
A couple of speed humps, handicapped spaces, and a deck were also discussed, but as the clock ticked away, the room got restless and I stopped taking notes. One point I found interesting though was how easy it seems to get a speed hump on your street. DDOT requires 70% support from your block and a pass from the ANC.
It’s always nice to see new faces and a level of interest at these meetings, but it is also extremely frustrating to see the lack of organization. I think I blacked out somewhere around the third hour and I swear I woke up back in high school during an argument on parliamentary procedure in a student government meeting. Yes, our commissioners are unpaid volunteers, and I have a very deep respect for them (as I think we all do), but the amount of back and forth coupled with the disorder on the floor was a bit disheartening. Also, is that really the biggest and most accommodating room in Petworth?