ACLU asks DC Police not to come to community meeting in Deanwood

ACLU asks DC Police not to come to community meeting in Deanwood (ABC7)

On the eve of an oversight roundtable on policing and public safety in Wards 7 and 8, the ACLU of D.C. made a special request to the Metropolitan Police Department.

In a post on Twitter, the ACLU said its asking DC Police to "respect the community's request and keep a minimal, if any presence" at Thursday's 5 p.m. hearing set to take place at the Deanwood Recreation Center.

Council Member Charles Allen, who chairs the Committee on the Judiciary and Public Safety, called for the roundtable in response to growing tensions between police officers and community members in Deanwood.

Specifically, Allen's office received community requests for the roundtable after several confrontations between officers and residents were caught on camera outside Nook's Barber Shop on Sheriff Road NE.

Thursday's event will include a 9:30 a.m. hearing at the John A. Wilson Building and a 5 p.m. hearing at the Deanwood Recreation Center on 49th Street NE.

A spokesperson for MPD told ABC7 News that police command staff would definitely be attending the 9:30 a.m. hearing.

"We are pleased the D.C. Council is holding public hearings on concerns to public safety in Wards 7 & 8, and we are glad that Chief of Police Peter Newsham appears to be planning to attend the morning session," said Monica Hopkins, executive director of the ACLU of the District of Columbia. "It's also important for community members to have an opportunity to share their concerns without feeling pressure from law enforcement. As some community members may feel intimidated and be more reluctant to share their experiences with police officers in the room, we ask the Metropolitan Police Department respect the community's request and keep a minimal, if any, presence at the Thursday evening portion of the hearing."

The ACLU said that given recent incidents involving the police in Wards 7 and 8, it's critical community members feel safe to share their experiences with the D.C. Council.

MPD didn't have an immediate response to the ACLU's request, except to say that police command staff will be attending the morning hearing.

Community members in Northeast Washington had mixed reactions to the request for officers to keep their distance as the roundtable on policing takes place.

"I tend to agree, I think they don't necessarily need to be there," said William Rhinehart. "Because we want to get honest feedback, honest information, and we want the community to speak freely and feel comfortable doing that."

Others believe it's going to take MPD and the community working together to enact real change.

"I don't think that's a good idea. I think everyone needs to come to the table. I'm not going to exclude you," said Lloyd Murphy. "It's like a two-way street. We both got to come to each other."

Residents said they hope Thursday's roundtable is a first step towards repairing the relationship between the community and D.C. Police.

"I feel that both the police officers and the residents have lost respect for one another. So we need to find a way to bring that respect back," said Shirley Cherry. "I think the officers should come to the hearing as well as the residents and have an open and honest conversation about the situation that's going on."

Click here for more details on Thursday's public oversight roundtable on policing and public safety

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