Community

Viral Police Abuse Video Shakes Ward 8 Community

A video making the rounds on social media not only has led to three District police officers facing criminal prosecution but incensed residents in Southeast about what they describe as constant police harassment inflicted on their community.

On Sunday, officers, responding to reports of drug activity, approached a young man near the corner of 16th and U streets in Southeast who they would later find possessed a firearm. As the video shows, two officers restrained him while a third officer, in front of a crowd, repeatedly struck the man in the head with a closed fist.

As a millennial who witnessed the incident told The Informer, officers have recently harassed and assaulted their friends and others who live and congregate along 16th Street between Good Hope Road and V Street in Southeast.

“This is not this officer’s first time putting his hand on someone,” said the young man who requested anonymity. “The officers went hard with all those cameras on them. Just imagine if he [the officer] kept people by themselves. We’re 10 deep and he’s just swinging. It’s just another day. He’s acting like a mob boss.”

The young man who the officer struck in the video, as well as another person arrested at the scene, have since been released with no charges.

As for the three officers, whose names have not yet been released, they have either been placed on administrative leave or mandated to have no contact with the public. Their case has been referred to the U.S. Attorney’s Office with administrative action soon to follow.

Sunday’s incident in Anacostia culminated a violent weekend in the District during which three people lost their lives. The homicides occurred on 53rd Street, 49th Street and Nelson Street, all in Southeast. The victims’ ages ranged from early 20s to late 60s. In total, MPD has recorded 118 homicide victims for this year — a four percent increase from figures recorded a year ago.

On Monday, Metropolitan Police Department (MPD) Chief Robert Contee designated firearms as the common denominator in the violent crimes engulfing the District. Contee, a veteran police officer and native Washingtonian, took the helm for the police department earlier this year pledging to simultaneously tackle violent crime and foster positive police-community relations.

In regards to the viral video, Contee said the officers’ actions don’t help to advance that goal. However, he did not reply to our inquiry about the number of police harassment/abuse complaints that MPD has received since the start of his tenure as chief.

“I’m embarrassed, discouraged and ashamed,” Contee told reporters on Monday at MPD headquarters. “We’re an agency of over 3,500 officers and I assured the community this is not consistent with our training tactics, policies and procedures nor is it consistent with our agency’s values.”

Citing community demand for an increased police presence, D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser (D) recently requested $11 million in the FY 2022 budget for the hiring of 170 additional police officers.

However, the D.C. Council only allocated $5 million toward that goal with the other $6 million funding violence prevention and wraparound programs.

Days later, experts continue to cite that turn of events as part of a dilemma facing the Bowser administration and the police department amid rampant violence and growing anti-police sentiments.

D.C. Councilmember Trayon White (D-Ward 8), who’s reportedly meeting with the young man’s family on Monday, commended MPD Chief Contee for his transparency and eagerness to hold members of his force accountable. In addition, he acknowledged that increased police activity will not suffice in curbing violent crime.

“We’ve got to put people and resources in place [like] recreation centers, mentors, substance abuse counseling and especially housing,” White said. “We’ve got to address the social ills in our community. I’ve never seen this amount of violence on women and kids. This is a new phenomenon.”

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