GLAA raises concerns about MPD Neighborhood Safety Zone initiative
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Many Protest Checkpoints, Call Policy a Rights Violation (The Washington Post) 06/08/08

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A Deadly Toll: Nine Hours, Seven Lives (TWP) 06/07/08

Directive Details Plans For Stops in Trinidad (TWP) 06/06/08

D.C. Police to Check Drivers In Violence-Plagued Trinidad (TWP) 06/05/08

MPD FAQ on Neighborhood Safety Zone initiative 06/04/08

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MPD opposes relocation of Ziegfeld's/Secrets 03/31/08

GLAA Endorses Bill for Service of Process on MPD Officers 03/10/08

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GLAA raises concerns about MPD Neighborhood Safety Zone initiative

From:Rick Rosendall
Sent:Friday, June 06, 2008 8:30 AM
To:Joshua Ederheimer, Assistant Chief of Police, Professional Development Bureau
Subject:RE: Fair & Inclusive Policing Task Force


Thank you for sharing the FAQ on the Neighborhood Safety Zone initiative, which reportedly is to be launched in the Trinidad neighborhood in Northeast DC. We find it very disturbing, along with the Acting Attorney General’s blithe attitude about possible lawsuits as reported yesterday in The Washington Post. But I was encouraged by something else in the Post article, specifically the comments by longtime Trinidad resident Wilhelmina Lawson: "I knew eventually we'd be a police state. They don't talk to us, they're not community minded."

I should mention that the gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender community lives in all parts of our city. Indeed, several GLAA members attended a party earlier this spring in the Trinidad neighborhood. One reason we work in coalition with groups like the NAACP, the National Black Police Association, and the ACLU is because we know that the freedoms of all are threatened when those of a few are encroached upon, and it is shortsighted to be complacent in the face of such encroachments merely because one’s own relatively privileged enclave is for the moment unaffected.

What we need is not to turn the police force into an occupation force, and not to infringe civil liberties while insisting that you can get away with it constitutionally (we’ll see; but thank goodness for the ACLU). What we need is what Ms. Lawson suggested is lacking: better basic policing, starting with officers getting out of their cars and getting to know the people in the troubled neighborhoods.

How can the officers who will be involved in the NSZ program have been adequately trained in such a short period of time? It is easy to give assurances in an FAQ that officers will respect proper limits, but implementation is another story.

It is particularly disturbing that police officers are being empowered with determining what constitutes “a legitimate purpose” for entering a given area. As my colleague Frank Kameny—one of the pioneers of the gay rights movement in this country—likes to say, this is not some Balkan principality where one has to show one’s papers in order to be able to move about freely. Or, at least, it wasn’t absent programs like the present one.

Why were the members of the Fair and Inclusive Policing Task Force not consulted in advance instead of this initiative being announced fully formed? It appears that Chief Lanier does not want collaborators in the community, but only cheerleaders. This is unfortunate to say the least. GLAA is a civil liberties organization, and we are troubled when the government’s response to crime is to curtail people’s liberties. We were previously disturbed by the MPD program of knocking on people’s doors in designated neighborhoods and asking to do warrantless searches. One may be able to get residents to go along with such measures, especially when they are put on the spot and have not been adequately advised (by someone independent of MPD) of their rights and of the possible consequences of their compliance. But it is unfortunate that the city is going down this path rather than recommitting itself to improving basic policing. Before our police department behaves in a way dismissive of community policing, it would be nice if it seriously tried it first.

Rick Rosendall
Vice President for Political Affairs
Gay and Lesbian Activists Alliance

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