Inside the DC Police Department’s Efforts To Grapple With Diversity

Inside the DC Police Department’s Efforts To Grapple With Diversity


It’s past due afternoon on a Thursday, and Sergeant Jessica Hawkins is steering her police vehicle round Shaw, expecting a name. It’s been a low-key shift, even though, and up to now her offerings haven’t been required.

Hawkins’s beat isn’t continually so quiet. As head of the Metropolitan Police department’s LGBT Liaison Unit—and one of the MPD’s most effective brazenly transgender officers—she runs a four-person crew that, on pinnacle of ordinary police work, responds to incidents related to the LGBTQ network.

whilst guys have been attacked on U road in April via assailants shouting anti-homosexual slurs, contributors of Hawkins’s group had been among the first to reply. That incident, which has shaken the LGBTQ community, factors to a troubling trend: Hate crimes in the city have improved for the final two years and rose again throughout the first months of 2018.

a part of Hawkins’s process entails outreach, including talking at network conferences or attending pleasure events. So at some stage in these days’s shift, she does something unusual: She attends a celebration. At a reception hosted via GLAA (the gay and Lesbian Activists Alliance), Hawkins mixes effects with the crowd, shaking arms and replacing hugs with neighborhood politicians and advocates. She also says good day to police leader Peter Newsham, whose marvel appearance is a display of team spirit within the wake of the U road attack.

The evening’s host, GLAA president Guillaume Bagal, welcomes the unit’s efforts, but he’s also sensitive to members of the community who remain wary of the police after what they perceive as previous indifference or maybe hostility, specifically in DC’s poorer communities. “What’s really lacking is trust,” Bagal says. Motioning to Hawkins and other uniformed law enforcement officials on the occasion, he provides, “officers who become aware of as LGBTQ displaying up is a superb aspect. but there are individuals who aren't comfy with officials with guns being right here.”

And the U road assault—which remained unsolved at press time—points to limits in what the police can accomplish. “We hold to take this seriously and are working to build agree with in the community,” says Lieutenant Brett Parson, who oversees the MPD’s various liaison devices and also attended the party. but preventing bias crimes, he adds, “doesn’t just fall on the police branch. That’s a miles bigger activity for society.”

Groans and yawns fill a room on the second one ground of the Wilson building as approximately 30 women and men in uniform take a seat in rows of chairs. It’s 6 am, and these officers have collected for an all-day magnificence designed to lead them to greater sensitive to issues regarding race and regulation enforcement. the program is mandatory; as roll name begins, some attendees genuinely do no longer want to be here.

though the instructions started out in January, Mayor Muriel Bowser formally announced the program in April. via the end of the year, all 3,800 sworn officials may have finished the education, which entails a lecture from UDC professors Bernard Demczuk and Sharita Thompson and a specially designed excursion of the country wide Museum of African American history & lifestyle.

Demczuk opens nowadays’s elegance with a reference to Plato, which appears to do little to lighten the weary mood. Over the direction of the lesson, the professors talk about African-American records, racism and unconscious bias, and other topics they desire will give officials a higher understanding of the African-American enjoy along side more sensitivity to racial issues.

Will it assist? “This is lots of information that must be concept through in one day,” says Gregory Carr, chair of Howard college’s department of Afro-American research, who isn’t involved with this system. “probable the satisfactory this could hope for is to reveal officials to the concern and ignite an interest. [But] any try to have law-enforcement officers study African-American records and way of life is a superb aspect.”

Anecdotally, the attempt is creating a difference. Demczuk says that on the quit of 1 session, a white, 25-12 months veteran of the force requested, with tears in his eyes, if he became a racist because he handled human beings in Shaw and Georgetown otherwise. After any other class, an officer got here as much as Thompson and positioned it greater in reality: “I didn’t recognize. I didn’t understand.”

this article seemed in the June 2018 trouble of Washingtonian.

greater: DC Police LGBTQ Metropolitan Police branch Muriel Bowser country wide Museum of African American history & subculture Peter Newsham Racism

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