The Metropolitan Police Department’s penchant for violence against the black community is no secret. Decades of documentation exist for their record of brutality issued disproportionately to black and brown residents. The department’s actions in 2018 alone are enough to prompt concern. Just May and June of last year saw the lawless murders of black Washingtonians Marqueese Alston, D’Quan Young, and Jeffrey Price at the hands of the police. The Washington City Paper (Gomez, 2019) reports that there is body cam footage—a result of a municipal policy enacted in 2014 (WAMU)—of all three murders that remains unreleased to the public nearly seventeen months later, despite impassioned protest. So they are ignoring the law in an attempt to break it quietly.
The withholding, destruction, and planting of evidence by police officers in America is, by now, par-for-the-course. Surely many of us still remember the highly publicized murder of Laquan McDonald by Chicago police, and the gruesome dashcam footage that would never have surfaced if not for the award-winning investigative efforts of journalist Jamie Kalven (Kunichoff, 2017). Or, in the same case, the eighty-six minutes of Burger King security footage that took an invocation of law by the Chicago Tribune to be released (Gorner, 2015).
But the MPD is hustling too hard in the cause of racial marginalization to restrict themselves solely to murder. Their immense record of sexual violence against and solicitation of the city’s black and brown sex workers speaks for itself. The frequency and depravity of such cases may lead one to wonder if they are being perpetrated for sport. The account of one sex worker’s defense attorney in the City Paper (Kaplan, 2019) describes their infamous anti-prostitution sting operations—for which there even exists a specific task force, the misnamed Human Trafficking Unit—where one officer will solicit sex while a pack of them wait around the corner, perhaps checking how many fantasy points their friend’s actions are about to get him.
The same article in the City Paper reports that of the 238 sentences for solicitation between January 1, 2017, and September 30, 2019, 89 percent of them were given to black people. Contributor Joshua Kaplan found that most of the stings take place in gentrifying or lower-income neighborhoods, further troubling already struggling D.C. communities. And it is this trampling over already battered areas in the District that the police have become so good at doing.
Their crimes are various: when they are not coercing black sex workers to let them touch them inappropriately, take lewd pictures of them, or have sex with them lest they want to go to jail (this describes behavior documented twenty years ago by the City Paper (Mencimer, 1999) and less than one year ago by the Washington Blade (Chibbaro, Jr., 2018)), they are fatally shooting black residents, planting guns on them, and in at least one case, leaving their bleeding carcasses outside for hours (DeLoach, 2018). The officer that murdered D’Quan Young, who the MPD has yet to identify over a year later, wasn’t even on duty at the time. He fired so haphazardly at Young that he caused property damage and created a panic among the neighborhood’s adults and small children alike (Ford, 2018).
Organizer Jordan DeLoach (2019) writes that the Metropolitan Police Department is “the number one purveyor of violence against Black people in the District,”—we know that the numbers and case-by-case evidence are there to support her. The question is what the department, the municipal or the national government will do to nullify this heinous fact.
Austermuhle, M. (2015, July 7). D.C. Police To Test Body Cameras, But Civil Libertarians Raise Privacy Concerns. Retrieved from https://wamu.org/story/14/09/24/dc_police_officers_to_test_body_cameras/.
Chibbaro, Jr., L. (2018, November 19). D.C., P.G. cops investigated for ‘coercing’ trans sex worker. Retrieved from https://www.washingtonblade.com/2018/11/19/d-c-p-g-cops-investigated-for-coercing-trans-sex-worker/.
DeLoach, J. (2018, July 27). #StopMPD: Too Many Cops, Too Little Justice. Retrieved from https://melanationzine.com/2018/06/15/stopmpd-too-many-cops-too-little-justice/.
DeLoach, J. (2019, March 28). Will DC Police be Held Accountable for Sexually Assaulting Sex Workers? Retrieved from https://www.decrimnow.org/blog/2019/3/28/will-dc-police-be-held-accountable-for-sexually-assaulting-sex-workers.
Ford, S. (2018, May 11). Witnesses: DC cop who killed man shot wildly as residents, children ran for their lives. Retrieved from https://wjla.com/news/local/man-killed-by-off-duty-dc-officer-identified-body-camera-footage-under-review.
Gomez, A. M. (2019, October 22). District Line Daily: Are Police Body Cameras Working? Retrieved from https://www.washingtoncitypaper.com/news/city-desk/article/21093402/district-line-daily-are-police-body-cameras-working.
Gorner, J. (2019, May 25). Chicago officials release Burger King video from Laquan McDonald shooting. Retrieved from https://www.chicagotribune.com/news/breaking/ct-shooting-laquan-mcdonald-burger-king-video-met-20151203-story.html.
Kaplan, J. (2019, October 17). Police Reports Raise Questions about MPD’s Tactics During Undercover Prostitution Stings. Retrieved from https://www.washingtoncitypaper.com/news/article/21092908/police-reports-raise-questions-about-mpds-tactics-during-undercover-prostitution-stings.
Kunichoff, Y. (2017, October 20). Journalist Who Brought Laquan McDonald Shooting to Public Eye Says He Won’t Reveal His Source. Retrieved from https://www.chicagomag.com/city-life/October-2017/Jamie-Kalven-Laquan-McDonald-Jason-Van-Dyke/.
Mencimer, S. (1999, September 24). On Booty. Retrieved from https://www.washingtoncitypaper.com/news/article/13018542/on-booty.