I hate taking my phone out on dark streets, but I was hungry. My partner and I had just wrapped up a vigorous karaoke session for a buddy’s birthday at Muzette, and we were late to meet another group of friends at a bar I’d never heard of.
“Lyman’s Tavern? Do they have food there?” I asked, searching for a menu on my iPhone. I stood close to my bike, which was locked up outside the karaoke bar at 18th Street and Kalorama Road NW, trying not to flash my most expensive personal possession to the hordes descending on Adams Morgan for a late-September Friday night turn-up.
That’s when I felt a hand on my ass. Not a grab, not a slap, but a slow, intimate caress, the kind a lover would give her partner. And that’s what I assumed it was—I didn’t even look up from my phone, so wrapped up was I in my hopeful search for tater tots or tacos.
“Hey, get away from her!” my partner yelled. I whipped around and found myself face to face with a man I didn’t know. I shoved him; he stumbled back. “Get the fuck away from me,” I screamed. “Sorry, I just fell,” he slurred, putting his hands up in mock surrender. “No, you didn’t,” I said. “If you don’t walk away right now, I’m kicking you in the balls.” He shrugged. I kicked him in the balls.
“If you don’t get away from me, I’m calling the cops,” I said. There was more yelling, more shoving, and with a final push from my partner, the man crossed Kalorama, where he tried to strike up a conversation with a group of young women gathered on the corner.
“That man touches girls’ asses!” I yelled at them. “He’s a creep!” My partner and I got on our bikes and headed east.
It wasn’t the first time I’d been touched in public without my consent; it wasn’t even the first time it’d happened to me on that four-block stretch of 18th Street. (The most recent incident was some months prior, when a heavy-breather started tickling the back of my neck as I housed a jumbo slice at Pizza Mart.) My friends and I had dubbed the strip a danger zone after a round or two of homophobic taunts—some grossed out, some turned on—on our way to find food after the occasional queer dance party at Chief Ike’s. We’d steel ourselves for the worst as we turned onto 18th Street, avoiding eye contact with groups of bros. “Safety in numbers,” we’d laugh to each other, only half joking.
But I don’t know—maybe it was the last song I’d sung at Muzette (Gossip’s “Standing in the Way of Control,” my personal power anthem), or maybe I’d dealt with one more violation than my body could handle. Because this time, I wasn’t ready to brush off the incident like so much dirt from my jeans. On my bike heading toward Lyman’s, whose menu or lack thereof no longer interested me, I got angry.
What must it be like, I wondered, to be a straight man in public? How lovely must that streetside invisibility feel, that blissful unawareness of who’s looking at what part of you and what they might say or do as you pass? I thought of the way my insides harden when I step outside, how I automatically tuck my ass in when I walk at night, willing it and my breasts not to shake as I move. I thought of some strange man walking around Adams Morgan, touching women with impunity like he owns them and that space. It’s not an just an inconvenience. It’s not just gender-based oppression at work. It’s a crime.
So when I got off my bike in Petworth, I called the police.
Among those who care for victims—nurses, social workers, activists—the Metropolitan Police Department has had a reputation for mishandling sexual assault cases for decades. Some prevailing concerns came into the spotlight in 2007, when a Howard University student sued the D.C. police and the hospitals at Howard and George Washington for, among other acts of malpractice and negligence, denying her a rape kit, a test for date-rape drugs, and an in-person interview after she suspected she’d been sexually assaulted. The plaintiff had reason to believe she’d been drugged and raped at a party, but since she didn’t remember the attack, the police questioned her account. Court documents and press scrutiny revealed that MPD officers would routinely fail to document that a rape kit had even been given if it didn’t yield a strong enough case.
Sara Darehshori, senior counsel at Human Rights Watch, also took note of D.C.’s reported number of sexual assault cases (suspiciously low) and corresponding arrest rate (suspiciously high), which suggested that MPD was underreporting cases or not classifying them accurately if officers didn’t think they’d lead to arrests. In 2011, she began interviewing D.C.-based health care workers and organizations that support sexual assault survivors about their experiences with the police. “Sometimes you have something you think is interesting, and it turns out to be a dud,” Darehshori says. “But this was one referral after another. Everyone had a horror story, and everyone knew someone else who had a horror story.”
In January 2013, Darehshori published a report, “Capitol Offense: Police Mishandling of Sexual Assault Cases in the District of Columbia,” which, through anecdotes from survivors and painstaking records research, paints a damning picture of a police force ill-equipped to properly investigate sexual assault cases. “I thought they must have changed things since [the 2007 lawsuit],” Darehshori says. “I was very surprised to find that any change they’d made was pretty cosmetic.” In her research, she found that after the litigation, instead of not writing anything down after some rape kits were administered, officers would classify the cases as “miscellaneous” rather than “sexual assault,” meaning they wouldn’t get a case number and would not be investigated further. Survivors spoke of detectives who’d pass judgment or belittle them, and officers who’d incurred some truly appalling complaints received no disciplinary action. Nurses recalled seeing victims endure an invasive four-hour medical exam, only to find that the police weren’t taking the case anywhere. They’d watch calm women go into a room with detectives and come out sobbing. MPD, it seemed, was adding to their trauma in many cases, not mitigating it.
MPD disputed much of the report’s content. “Human Rights Watch—their report was, for lack of a better word, inaccurate,” says Assistant Chief Peter Newsham. “It was tabloid-style reporting.” According to Newsham, of the 22 best practices Darehshori recommended in the January 2013 report, 19 were already in effect at MPD. But some of those best practices were only enacted after HRW informed MPD of Darehshori’s recommendations and the results of her research in May 2012, before the finished report was made public. (These included requiring detectives to return a victim’s phone call within two days and allowing the victim a sleep cycle between her initial police report and being re-interviewed by a detective.) And Darehshori found that, without public transparency and external accountability mechanisms, many of those policies sure sounded nice, but they had no teeth.
At the time, D.C. was one of the worst cities in the country in terms of sexual assault reporting (that is, implausibly low reporting rates and high arrest rates). It ranked low in qualitative measures, too. Before Darehshori began her research, she looked into the sexual assault protocol of the Miami police force, which reported similarly dubious statistics, but got the sense that the problems there were mainly administrative. There weren’t scores of people anxious to share their stories of how they’d been disrespected, mistrusted, and suffered emotional harm at the hands of the police. In D.C., Darehshori barely had to make one phone call before a colossal wave of responses came crashing down.
I’d followed the hubbub around the HRW report when it landed, and I’m well-versed in the logic of victim-blaming and misogyny in systems of authority, so I wasn’t expecting much when I called the police to report the dude who groped me in Adams Morgan. Mostly, I wanted to help the police compile accurate statistics—tick off another mark next to “nonconsensual butt touch” in the Adams Morgan column, and maybe they’d ramp up their anti-harassment campaigns or assign more cops to patrol the area, I thought. It was a symbolic gesture for my own sanity, too; the man might have violated me in front of dozens of people on a crowded street, but at least I did more than call him a nasty name and kick him in a sensitive spot.
What I thought would be a simple phone call turned into a full police investigation followed by comprehensive victim support. Here’s how the police responded to my sexual assault in September 2014.
I couldn’t find MPD’s non-emergency number, so I called 911. “This is not an emergency, but I need to report a crime,” I told the operator, who promptly transferred me. I gave a full report to the officer on the line—what happened where and when; what the perpetrator looked like—and was told to stay put. In just a few minutes, an officer on duty in Petworth showed up at the intersection where I stood and took another statement from me.
She seemed confused by the fact that I was standing on a corner in Petworth when the incident happened in Adams Morgan. Multiple MPD officers would tell me that victims should stay as close to the crime scene as possible when making a police report. Since I’d left the area, the Petworth officer had to call and coordinate with the Adams Morgan-area unit after taking my statement; had I stayed, they could have responded faster. (Still, I don’t regret leaving the 18th Street strip, which I’ve long considered an unsafe space, as fast as my fixie could carry me.)
The Petworth officer phoned in my report to someone and told me to wait for a detective from the Sexual Assault Unit. This, I think, is when my fascination with the police process—a function of too many hours spent watching Law & Order: Special Victims Unit as a teenager—began to overtake the actual trauma of my assault.
Fifteen or so minutes later, an unmarked sedan pulled up, and a detective in a shirt and tie stepped onto the curb. His name was Douglas Carlson, and he asked me to repeat the details of the incident again. There are outdoor security cameras all over 18th Street, Carlson said, so there was a good chance one of them had caught the perpetrator on video. He took a photo of me and my partner so he could try to identify us in a tape, if there was one. At that point, I thought to worry about what I was wearing (a see-through T-shirt that revealed my bra) and whose hand I was holding (my very genderqueer girlfriend). If this cop had any predilections toward victim-blaming or homophobia, he wouldn’t have to dig deep to find a reason to snub my report.
But whatever the police equivalent of bedside manner is, Carlson had it. He drove us back to Adams Morgan, a soft bluegrass station playing on the radio, and made comfortable small talk the whole way. When I told him I’d fought the creep off, he asked if I’d gotten a proper kick in. “Good,” he said, when I affirmed my hit to the balls. “I’m going to make sure my daughter knows self-defense when she grows up and starts dating men,” he paused, “or whoever she chooses.”
Carlson said that, like me, he holds that stretch of 18th Street in low esteem. He says he’s pulled the security tapes from outside the McDonald’s at Columbia Road so many times, all the cashiers know him by sight. We rolled down the strip in Carlson’s car, and he told me to look for the guy who groped me. No dice. I showed him exactly where and how I was standing when the crime took place so he’d know what to look for in any footage.
On the ride back to Petworth, Carlson heard from the Adams Morgan cops: They’d stopped a guy who matched the description I provided, right down to the camouflage cargo shorts and gunked-up right eye, for some other stupid move he’d made earlier in the day. The part of me that worried my description wasn’t exactly right, that I’d be the reason another innocent black man got stopped by the cops, relaxed a bit. Carlson had my partner step out of the car (police protocol, for privacy) while he took a final, official statement from me, recorded on his phone. He asked about my night, and whether I’d had any alcohol or drugs. “I have to ask this,” he said, and assured me my answer would have no effect on how he investigated my report. “Just one beer,” I told him.
Carlson’s questions about the assault were pointed and precise: Which hand did the perpetrator use to touch me? Was it a pinch, a slap, or a rub? How many fingers were on me? It felt like an uncomfortable, bloodless kind of dirty talk, made worse by the fact that I didn’t know the man asking intimate questions about my body. My heart raced, my stomach turned, and this was just a grope—I can only imagine how violating interviews with rape survivors must be.
After a separate interview with my partner, Carlson told us he usually drives victims home, but since we had our bikes, we should text him when we got there. By the time I got through the door, he’d already left me a voicemail: The Adams Morgan cops who’d stopped my perpetrator earlier in the day said the dude claimed to have pinkeye. “Since you said you touched him, make sure you take any precautions you need to,” Carlson said. I took a shower and went to sleep.
2008 was an inflection point for MPD’s handling of sexual assault cases. That’s when, in the wake of the 2007 lawsuit, D.C.’s Sexual Assault Nurse Examiner program, which employs medical professionals specifically trained to perform forensic exams and enter rape kits into evidence, moved from Howard to Washington Hospital Center. MPD also “re-emphasized” its Sexual Assault Response Team—a group that includes representatives from MPD’s sexual assault unit, the U.S. Attorney’s office, SANE, the DC Rape Crisis Center, and other interested parties—which hadn’t been meeting as regularly or sharing as much information among members as it should have, according to Newsham.
But last summer, D.C. sexual assault activists and survivors scored a bigger victory, a landmark piece of legislation that not only stands to improve the victim experience but, perhaps more importantly, establishes means for transparency and accountability that should prevent persistent bad practices from seeping through the ranks of MPD.
Susan Mottet, the president of the D.C. chapter of the National Organization for Women, had read Amanda Hess’ 2010 Washington City Paper cover story on the 2007 lawsuit against MPD and the Howard and GW hospitals, which described a disturbing lack of coordination and concern for victims’ well-being in D.C.’s sexual assault protocol. “I could not sleep that night [after I read the article],” Mottet says. “I’m a policy professional; I’ve worked on a lot of justice issues. But for some reason, I was just like, ‘This cannot happen in my backyard while I’m here.’” When the HRW report was published in 2013, Mottet saw an opportunity. She took Darehshori to the Wilson Building to explain the report’s findings to councilmembers and their staffs, an effort Mottet hoped would result in remedial legislation despite MPD Chief Cathy Lanier’s denial of wrongdoing.
After commissioning law firm Crowell & Moring to evaluate the HRW report, D.C. Councilmember Tommy Wells and Chairman Phil Mendelson introduced the Sexual Assault Victims’ Rights Amendment Act in June 2013. The bill was written to grant survivors the right to have an advocate from the Network for Victim Recovery of DC present during all medical exams and interviews with law enforcement or prosecutors, which would both deter some of their more egregious behaviors (victim-blaming, slut-shaming, and the like) and give the victim a party solely interested in his or her well-being, as opposed to finding a suspect or piecing together a case for prosecution. It also demanded an expedient processing of rape kits and forbade hospitals from charging victims for them.
But local anti-rape activists spotted a few weak spots. They saw the bill as their best shot at comprehensive reform for MPD’s sexual assault investigation process, and they didn’t want to settle for anything less than perfect.
Representatives from DCRCC, Collective Action for Safe Spaces, and DC NOW came together (they’d eventually call themselves the DC Justice for Survivors Campaign) and settled on three proposed amendments. First, they wanted to eliminate a provision that would have allowed police to waive victims’ rights to an advocate. They also wanted to establish a third-party consultant to oversee the law’s implementation and report on MPD’s progress. And inspired by successful programs in Baltimore and Philadelphia, the coalition recommended that the Sexual Assault Response Team examine randomly chosen cases on a regular basis to give MPD input from organizations that work primarily with survivors.
With the 2014 mayoral election approaching, the activists had leverage; NOW lobbied Wells with an endorsement as bait. But Lanier is a popular public figure, so future mayoral candidates were leery of running afoul of her—and word got around that she’d try to quash any bill that came through.
Led by survivors of sexual assault, advocates set their sights on a hearing on Dec. 12, 2013. Paramount to their strategy was testimony from survivors, who could speak to the trauma of their assaults—and, in many cases, revictimization at the hands of the police—better than any ally or expert ever could. Each organization recruited and prepared survivors willing to testify about their experiences, whether on the stand, by proxy, or using a pseudonym and a written statement.
Along with attorneys, hospital staff, and experts on police best practices, many survivors testified at the hearing, sharing personal stories that backed up their reasons for recommending the three amendments. Marisa Ferri, a survivor and campaign organizer with DC JSC, was one. “When I was raped back in 2011, l thought it was the most traumatic experience of my life,” she testified. “But I was wrong. What was more traumatic was the way MPD treated me after being raped…the sexual assault detective who interviewed me suggested that while my words were saying no, my actions were saying yes. Like many victims, I froze when I was attacked. The officer told me that was really consent. She also told me that if the assailant were arrested, he would probably lose his job, implying that l would be ruining his life, as if the assault didn’t have any impact on mine.”
After the hearing, DC JSC members worked with Wells’ office to write a stronger bill, which included all three proposed amendments. It was rumored that other amendments were floating around—one would have negated the need to process a rape kit if the suspect admitted to having sexual contact with the victim but claimed there was consent; another would require police officers to notify the victim that revealing the results of a rape kit might compromise the case’s integrity by swaying his or her memory of what happened. Mottet visited councilmembers to argue those amendments down before they were even proposed. DC JSC circulated a letter among supporters, gathering more than 400 signatories, dozens of whom publicly self-identified as survivors, to back up its platform.
Then-Mayor Vince Gray signed what Mottet calls “the perfect bill” into law last June. “As progressive as [D.C. is], this was the hardest bill I’ve ever gotten passed in my life, hands down, and it should have been an easy lift,” Mottet says. In other cities and states where police have come under criticism for their handling of sexual assault cases, officials were embarrassed enough to make sweeping policy changes without waiting for a legislative mandate. In D.C., MPD went on the defensive. (“MPD has always been open to legitimate constructive criticism especially when it comes to improving our ability to effectively investigate sexual assaults,” Newsham wrote in an email. “MPD did take issue with the report because it was unfair and inaccurate.”)
Sherelle Hessell-Gordon, DCRCC’s executive director, spent her first day on the job at the December 2013 hearing. Since then, she says, MPD officers have “improved in soft skills: sensitivity, overall experience, how they interact and communicate.” DCRCC led three months of training for the Sexual Assault Unit last year to share their intimate knowledge of survivors’ experiences.
One of the biggest impediments to MPD’s improvement in its treatment of sexual assault survivors was standard police protocol, which was applied without nuance or acumen. Investigators taught to probe for inconsistencies in interviews were accusing victims, whose memories of assaults were often foggy or nonexistent due to the effects of trauma or intoxicants, of making false allegations. “When I first came on the police department 25 years ago, if you lied to a detective and you’re a victim, the first thing the detective would do is challenge you,” Newsham says. “They didn’t realize that with sexual assault victims, they weren’t lying—they just didn’t have an accurate recollection.” That was the old mindset, he says, and it doesn’t fly now. The older officers in the unit who can’t shake those habits, Newsham says, either have to change their ways or prepare to be replaced.
The Monday after I filed my police report, a victim specialist at MPD called to check on me. Was I feeling okay? Did I need to talk to someone? Could she send me an email with some resources in case I changed my mind? Yes, no, yes please.
She forwarded me a list of victims’ rights, a pamphlet about expenses MPD covers (lock changes, lost wages, replacements for clothes held as evidence), and contact information for emergency shelters and support organizations like Ayuda, which serves immigrant survivors. There was a database of counseling programs attached, too, and a flyer for a domestic violence support group.
Later that week, I got a call from Carlson—he’d identified a suspect based on my description and the Adams Morgan cop’s record, and he wanted to see if I could pick the guy out of a photo spread, a paper version of a line-up. I told him my schedule, and he came to my house with his partner, Detective Elbert Griffin, one morning before I left for work. They showed up on my doorstep in Bloomingdale in shirts and ties, making jokes about how the neighborhood’s changed in their years at MPD. (“You’d be literally stepping over dead bodies” on North Capitol Street a decade back, Griffin said.)
The import of this photo spread was not lost on me. Not only was it imperative to the investigation and a potential point in favor of my credibility (though my story was never called into question, I still felt obligated to prove I was telling the truth), but my accusation would assign guilt to a specific person, a face with a name and a life, not some amorphous description. It was the detective’s job to match my initial description to a suspect; now, the burden was on me.
I’d run through my memory of that night in Adams Morgan over and over, re-envisioning the face I saw when I whipped around and shoved. I’d only had one beer, but I started to fear that my memory had gone cloudy—I’d never felt an adrenaline rush like that before, and it had wrapped around every sense, every corner of my body. The detectives sat with me at my kitchen table and put a sheet of paper face-down in front of me. Don’t pay attention to facial hair, lighting, or clothing, they said, just faces. I turned it over to find a grid of portraits—taken from mugshots, drivers’ licenses, high-school yearbooks, and such, but edited onto identical white backdrops—each with the same short dreadlocks as the man who’d groped me. I thought one face would jump out at me, and I’d feel something stir in my stomach. It didn’t. But there was only one face that looked anything like that man. I circled and initialed the picture with the pen and told the detectives I was 80 percent sure it was him. The magnitude of what might happen next (an arrest, prosecution, potential jail time for this guy) sat with me. I cried.
I didn’t hear from MPD until four months later, on Jan. 22, when I got a phone call from the Office of Victim Services. The representative asked how I was doing, reminded me of the programs and victims’ reimbursement MPD offers, and asked if I’d be willing to take a phone survey about my experience. The yes-or-no questions were thoughtful and qualitative: Did I feel that the officer listened to me? Did he show appropriate concern? Did I feel that he judged me, disbelieved me, or blamed me for my assault? (When I asked Newsham about the survey, he told me MPD started this evaluation of victims’ feedback in 2012, and the results get forwarded to Lanier.) When I said I hadn’t heard from my detective in a few months, the representative promised to follow up. An hour later, Carlson called with an update on his investigation.
MPD’s diligence and concern for a sexual assault I considered to be comparatively minor astounded me. After the horror stories I’d heard about doltish detectives and overburdened, disorganized bureaucrats, I’d expected the worst. “What you’re now experiencing is what I believe are the effects of [our activism],” Hessell-Gordon says.
“Every now and then, survivors reach out to me. And ever since there’s been this increased scrutiny [on MPD], I’ve only heard positive stories,” Darehshori says of the two years since she published the HRW report. “In the old days, it was hard to find anyone who’d had anything but a really traumatic experience with the [D.C.] police.” Darehshori has a vision of D.C. as a model for other cities with similar problems with police response to sexual assault cases, both in the specific legislation that passed and how it’s been implemented. She’s already shared D.C.’s story with Tallahassee’s police chief and the mayor of New Orleans.
Still, I know my experience, positive though it was, was singular to me. I’m white and middle-class; I have multiple degrees and know my rights; I’d only had one drink and wasn’t doing anything illegal when I was assaulted. I was reasonably confident that the police would not mistreat me, so I felt comfortable calling 911 in the first place. “Different communities are impacted [by sexual assault] at a greater rate,” Hessell-Gordon says. “It’s not so easy for some people to not only go report, but then go to hospital, or go to therapy, or have access to do any of those things.”
The HRW report, for example, included accounts from advocates and medical staff who’d seen police officers dismiss or verbally abuse sex workers when they reported a sexual assault. Some harped on whether or not money had been exchanged between the victim and perpetrator, and if so, they wouldn’t pursue the case. Others told the victim their report would be worthless because they were high, or because their line of work would discredit them in front of a jury.
Catherine Paquette manages outreach programs for HIPS, a local nonprofit that promotes sex worker health and safety, and has heard disturbing stories from clients who’ve called the police after being assaulted. A common theme: Sexual assault unit detectives took victims’ cases seriously and treated them with dignity, but beat cops—the first to respond after a 911 call—used discriminatory language or blamed them for their attack. One of Paquette’s clients, a black transwoman, was recruited by police as a witness against a man who’d sexually assaulted her, a serial rapist who was targeting sex workers. The client says that soon after she declined to testify, she was arrested in a prostitution sting and held in jail until she agreed to help prosecute her assailant.
Through its measures for increased MPD accountability and transparency, the law passed by the D.C. Council last year has laid the groundwork for a more effective, victim-centered approach to investigating sexual assaults. But past and present members of DC JSC say their work is far from done. The law left a big question mark where juvenile victims of sexual assault are concerned—it only applies to adult survivors. And police are only part of the problem; the U.S. Attorney’s Office has discretion over which cases get prosecuted and how. Even if a detective believes a victim’s report and conducts a thorough investigation, a prosecutor might not bring it to court if she thinks a jury won’t buy it. “There are societal stereotypes that persist in jury pools, but also within police and prosecutors,” Darehshori says. “They should be trained to recognize and resist them.” In her research, Darehshori found that some prosecutors would ignore cases that didn’t fit the common stereotype of a violent assault from a stranger; in reality, most sexual assaults are perpetrated by someone who knows the victim, and there’s often alcohol involved. It’s the prosecutor’s job to educate the jury, not just drop hard cases.
Another future battle: throwing out the line of criminal code that classifies certain rapes as misdemeanors punishable by a maximum of six months in prison. D.C. and Alabama are the only two jurisdictions in the U.S. where misdemeanor rape exists. In D.C., it’s called misdemeanor sexual abuse, and it covers any sexual act performed on another person when the perpetrator should have known that he or she didn’t have the victim’s consent. In practice, this covers anything from my ass-grope on the street to raping someone who is, due to their own or a third party’s actions, unconscious. (Rape-as-misdemeanor not disturbing enough for you? Consider that in 17 states, this type of sexual assault, which involves no use of force or threat, isn’t classified as a crime at all.) Mottet has spoken with several councilmembers about making rape a felony in all cases. “No one’s championed it yet,” she says. “I need to keep prepping them.”
For now, DC JSC is focused on monitoring the new law’s implementation, particularly the Sexual Assault Task Force it created to recommend best practices and further reform. The task force has been meeting behind closed doors and keeping its records sealed, which raised concerns among activists. On Feb. 12, DC JSC testified in favor of greater transparency at a Council hearing on the District’s Office of Victim Services. That office now plans to open task force meetings to the public on a quarterly basis to take comments on any research or reports it generates.
Beyond that, DC JSC is making survivor-centered policies the new norm in MPD’s sexual assault response. It’s something victim-services organizations learned a long time ago: If you want to better serve survivors, listen to what they have to say. DC JSC’s activism has been a pathway to healing for many survivors who’ve organized their peers for legislative action or testified at a hearing. “We’re doing things for ourselves—we’re not just waiting for people to advocate on our behalf. We’re not going to people and asking for permission to have an opinion on what’s happened in our lives,” Ferri says. “It’s so gratifying to see people stepping up outside the traditional mechanisms and saying…‘We’re going to make that opinion heard.’” Now, it seems, MPD is finally listening.