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Thank you for your mostly positive article on me (“The Beat Goes On,” 12/5). The article, whose focus really should be on community policing more than me, didn’t mention some of the events that exemplify what community policing should be. I would like to take the opportunity to comment on some of the issues I believe are important.
First of all, community policing by definition includes reaching out to law-abiding people and giving them a stake in the police process. This does not mean I am going to shift my allegiance away from upholding the law, nor does it mean I am insensitive to any class of people or the needs of my residents. Community policing simply restructures priorities in ways that provide the entire community the best chance of making us all safer, by helping to make all neighborhoods more crime- and drug-resistant in years to come. It is an attitude that both community and police must share.
Yes, I have no aspirations to climb the career ladder further. I prefer to play a new leadership role by educating the general public about what it will really take to turn our sometimes troubled community around. We have good, committed citizenswithout them, I could not do what needs to be done.
Though I have limited training in community policing, I do have 22 years on the street, and I do have a good idea of what works and doesn’t work. I have been outspoken and have lobbied for better proactive police work, and I have been critical of poor spending practices in the department. It has been only because of my commitment to community and my principles that I am so outspoken, because in the end, if you don’t stand for what is right, then you will fall to that which is wrong.
The article did not talk much about my effort to teach people that arrests alone will not solve the current drug crisis, nor how we explore ways to enlist support from local politicians and community leaders through several activitiesactivities such as the Police Unity Tour, which raises donations for the National Law Enforcement Memorial. What, you might ask, does this have to do community policing? By getting the community involved, the event raises awareness that many officers have given their lives to make this a better place for all of us, and it lets the community look at the police in a different light. It also lets officers from different jurisdictions meet and establish better lines of communication, leading to better sharing of community-policing ideals and strategies. Last year, this activity raised $350,000 for the National Law Enforcement Memorial, which is not funded with taxpayer dollars. Last year was the hardest yet, because we had to add all the names of our heroes killed in the Sept. 11 attacks.
Other important community-policing activities include the D.C. AIDS ride and related events designed to provide better care for people in the metropolitan area living with AIDS and HIV. We have all seen the statistics on this issue. One out of 20 people in D.C. today lives with HIV or AIDS, and the ones who don’t have health insurance, who benefit from these events, are lower-income residents, many of them in the Shaw community. What, you might ask, does this have to do with community policing? Has anyone heard of the term “dedicated to the preservation of life and property”? If you do an Internet search on those words, you will get your answer, about 1,840 times. It is part of the code of ethics of most police departments throughout the world. To those who protest that I don’t help those in this segment of the community, I would say that maybe they should help me help them.
The other community-policing-related activity that I really hoped that your article would talk about is the Chain Reaction Youth Bike Shop, located at 1701 6th St. NW. Clearly, if anything that I do exemplifies community policing, this is it. The shop’s involvement in the youth of Shaw is an investment in the future. What is more important than the impressions of today’s youth? Many of my fellow officers just think today’s youth in Shaw are tomorrow’s criminals. Isn’t criminal prevention and community involvement all part of the
The zero-tolerance ideal is one everyone except criminals has heard and likes. At least, that is, until a friend or relative gets arrested. Then, it’s a case of “Smith can’t interact with the Shaw demographic [African-Americans]” and, in the same sentence, “You need to take your camera to the black community where black kids are getting shot on a daily basis.” “Smith attends too many meetings”; “Smith never attends meetings”; “Smith moved into the Shaw community to gentrify the black community”; “Smith harasses the residents of his apartment complex”; and let’s not forget the famous “Smith is a cross between Clint Eastwood and John Wayne”!
Well, we could give them that one.
Let’s face it: I am outspoken. There are too many things we do wrong on the police department, but there are things we do right. There are too many police officers and police officials who are too worried about their careers, themselves, and making a dollar, rather than making a difference. Maybe I do have a fan club, and surely no one would argue that I would put my head on the chopping block rather than sacrifice my values. As one retired official told your reporter, “Smith was like a kid who kept touching a hot stove”referring to my 1994 indefinite suspension. Yes, I did piss off high-ranking officials of the department, to includebut not limited toChief Larry Soulsby, but if not touching that hot stove means for me to look the other way when I see wrongdoing, or sacrificing my values, then I would just as soon burn my hand off.