Wednesday, July 29, 2009

DC Police: A Cartoon Review

A brief story. While at the Red Derby the other day, a really drunk guy started harassing people at the bar and walking by. There was a cop on the corner a block away at Spring Road. Since this looked like it could get ugly soon, but didn't quite seem 911-worthy, I walked down to the cop and told him what was up. He had been hanging out by his police car talking with someone, possibly a friend, for a while.

The cop told me (correctly) that 14th and Quincy was out of his PSA, but he'd call someone. Spring road is the border.

Nobody ever came. Things very nearly got ugly. Someone got sick of him harassing everyone and started something. Luckily, other more cool-headed people at the bar stopped him. Later, the drunk guy fell over the fence onto the table where I was sitting with my date, and while I was only trying to prevent him from falling down, he tried to fight with me because he thought I was fighting with him. It could easily have become a fight at any point with any number of people. Luckily, some people who knew him eventually came and took him home. But the cop could easily have taken control of the situation 30 minutes earlier, instead of just leaving a firecracker with a lit fuse. A lot of serious crimes probably start out as more minor altercations that could be defused early.

The cop one block away couldn't bother to leave his engrossing conversation to walk a block and deal with an incident, and if he even called anyone, they didn't come. He was clearly not busy with anything of consequence.

What Is Wrong With This Picture

DC seems to remain baffled about how to better deal with crime in this city. In the last few years we've seen a slew of untested, reactionary approaches to the citizen outcry whenever there's a crime wave.

These have universally failed. Despite Kathy Lanier's claims to the contrary, the drops in crime in DC this year are not due to "All Hands On Deck" and the other silliness she's implemented.

News flash Kathy: When crime drops everywhere in the country, it's not because of you. And even if this was a phenomenon unique to DC, six months does not a trend make.

But they continue to push forward with initiatives that not only seem mind-bogglingly stupid at first glance, but don't produce any lasting results. Even the beat cops don't like them.

Obviously, the lawmakers in DC need to have things simplified a little bit so they can understand why these policies don't work. In an effort to make things as easy as possible for everyone to understand, I have prepared this pictoral overview of the effects of each the gimmicky DC policing policies instituted in the last couple years.

What MPD Has Tried




What MPD Has Not Tried, Despite Being Proven Effective Elsewhere


Please, Kathy, stop this reactionary approach to crime in DC.

Do what's tried and true. Get police out of their cars and into the community. Instill in them values that getting involved in a situation, no matter how small it may seem, is better than not doing so. Get them to care more about things that concern the citizens who come and talk to them, than about their big-gulp or conversation.

I hardly ever see cops on foot. I hardly even see them on bikes and segways anymore. Get them out of their cars. Get them walking their beats instead of parking on the corner until something happens.

I have not seen a policeman on foot on my street, five blocks from the Columbia Heights metro and three blocks from the Petworth Metro, ever. This is one of the most publicized areas in the city for criminal activity. And I spend a lot of time on my front porch. A lot.

What is wrong with this picture?


Capitol Hill 20210 said...

Actually that MPD officer lied to you, he can step a whole block out of his PSA to assist on a citizen complaint. All he has to do is call it in.

Unfortunately he was too busy with his conversation.

He can not ignore a citizen complaint.

Argh - this is why we get such a bad name.

Anonymous said...

In order to bring police back into the fold of polite society, we need to teach them manners other than "take control of the situation, with a taser if necessary" and also, we need a paper bag..

Until police enforcement matches up, in scope and severity, to consensus opinion on what are violations of social order, police will scare away good people and as a result will take a combative approach to patrolling - as much armor between them and the potential enemies around them as possible.

Jamie said...

@Anon, I'm be happy if the DC police did anything other than driving around (or, just as often, sitting on the corner) waiting for gunshots to go off. While I agree with you, I don't think MPD would even respond to a noise complaint at this point.

It's not as if the cops are too busy responding to gunshots to deal with anything lesser since I see them hanging out doing nothing so often. I can't believe a belligerent drunk doesn't warrant a walk down the street, even in Columbia Heights.

But you're right, and I think some foot patrols and community interaction would go a long way towards that.

Jamie said...

@Zipcode - yes - it is too bad. More than anything, it creates an impression that the police don't give a crap. And I'm not sure that impression (on average) is inaccurate.

Like I said, I've never seen a cop on foot on my street, only a few blocks from a "hotspot". I hardly ever even see them on foot on 14th Street near the Red Derby where there's probably an incident of some kind every single night.

I did a lot when the Derby first opened, but my feeling is that was just because the owners had some goodwill with the police. It seems like business as usual now. Sure, there's a cop hanging out at 14th and Spring a lot, but that's just one corner. Why doesn't he walk around? Why can't he bother to deal with something that he's actually told about specifically? It's troubling.

Dave Stroup said...

nicely done! i love the graphics, as well.

i completely agree with you.

Malnurtured Snay said...

Yesterday, when I got off the Metro, a transit police officer was handing out informative brochures about the NTSB and Metro's response to the accident. I'm sure someone informed him to do this, but ... he's a cop. Isn't there something better he can be doing?

Anonymous said...

You forgot to mention another worthless police tactic: Driving around with their lights flashing...thus alerting would be criminals from blocks away that they're coming. Just wait a minute or so and THEN commit the crime.

Jamie said...

@Anon, I can't believe I forgot about that! Totally with you.

I'm not sure what (if any) effect this has on criminal activity, other than alerting crooks that the cops are on the way.

But I am certain that is has the effect of confusing the hell out of every tourist when there's a cop behind them. Hell, I LIVE here and even now, several years after they started doing that, I still get freaked out for a second when there's a cop behind me, because I think I'm being pulled over.