The District of Columbia is not unlike any other city in the U.S. dealing with the challenges of failed police-community relations. George Floyd will forever be a painful and lasting reminder of law enforcement’s failures and their self-ordained role of judge and jury. Thousands of unnecessary and preventable police-involved killings of Black men continue to fuel the call for defunding an institution labeled racist and utterly out of control.
Yet, there are many communities in cities all across America that are crying out for help from police and improved relationships with law enforcement. While deaths related to the coronavirus are reported daily, residents in some communities have never stopped counting the uptick of deaths due to gun violence in their own backyards. The situation calls for law enforcement, community leaders and residents to come together in a coordinated fashion to explore, recommend, and initiate solutions. The program established decades ago in D.C. just for that purpose is the MPD Citizens Advisory Council (CAC).
On its website, MPD defines the CAC as “an advisory panel in each police district that provides the district commander with information and recommendations from the community on the public’s safety problems and police service needs. Regular CAC meetings in each district allow residents to meet and discuss police-related issues with the commander. The meetings also provide an opportunity for police officials to assess the impact of their crime-fighting efforts on the community.”
We haven’t determined how current or active every CAC is. But we have been reading email exchanges over several weeks between Ward 8 community leaders and MPD Police Chief Peter Newsham, calling for the revitalization of the 7th District CAC. “During these times of intense concerns and protests about community/police relations, the 7D CAC should be the most active organization around those issues and in the vanguard of leading that community conversation. I hope the Seventh District residents will quickly witness the revitalization of the 7D CAC,” Ward 8 resident Phillip Pannell recently wrote in a letter to Newsham.
We are pleased to learn that a meeting to address the violence in Ward 8 and other issues will be held in just a few days. We know CACs cannot stop the violence but when communities want the police to work alongside them to address their concerns, every effort should be made to support them. On this, they should depend, or else defund!