The troubling hyper-politicization of Washington, DC policing
By David J. Terestre
For 21 years of my life, I had the honor and distinction of working for the Washington, D.C. Police Department. I’m especially proud of the work and results the department achieved in the city’s Logan Circle area. That was my beat. I got to know the locals, fell in love with the neighborhood, and loathed the opportunistic criminal element that inhabited it. But I couldn’t help but notice over the years that there was an underlying current, one of expanding cultural change.
On any given day, it was a challenge to gain a pulse of the population of this place. Due to misleading media impact and heightened rhetorical language, it is a demanding task to identify any sincere public views or if they actually existed. The best example would be the police department’s involvement in maintaining order in our city. The police, who serve as the main arbiters of justice, seemed to have undergone a subtle transformation over time. The slow evolution of cultural indoctrination produced a vile political football that put police on the defensive for every action, with activists, academics, and of course, politicians spearheading the offensive push.
As a natural extension, council members hijacked the topic of police reform in order to energize their constituents and appeal to a specific voter demographic. For instance, many popular lawmakers believed that in order to address the root causes of crime , more funding for social services should be provided. These funds would be subtracted from police budget appropriations, mostly from hiring and training expenditures, which ironically improve service delivery and overall public safety. Then as today, the people in the district who wear blue uniforms have become detested as modern-day pariahs by many in the District. For front-line, emergency first responders to be marginalized and disrespected in this manner is, in no uncertain terms, unconscionable.
There have long been arguments and disagreements about how to handle problems facing DC Police while striking a balance between the needs of the public’s safety and the rights and concerns of communities. Up until quite recently, these were broadly compatible with conventional American traits. For a very long time, the public has been guided by the ideal of law and order, which controls individual behavior for the benefit of society as a whole. However, in today’s woke culture, there seems to be a total U-turn — the deregulation of individual behavior to the overall detriment of society.
Add the non-prosecution of many misdemeanor offenses and the dangerous practice of remanding homicide arrestees to “house arrest” while awaiting trial, and just about everything in between. We now have ratcheted up the ingredients needed for a recipe of inner-city lawlessness and chaos. This obsession with quick fixes, symbolic actions, and feel-good measures has little to no real influence on social order, with the possible exception of promoting it as an urban war zone.
Developing policing policy from an emotional rather than intellectual perspective is obviously problematic because top elected officials frequently place these factors above the real needs and interests of the communities they serve. Both politicians and law enforcement officers become less accountable as a result. Accountability, actually making people answerable for their actions, may be the operable word in this situation.
Career criminals frequently receive compassionate treatment because they are considered victims of social injustice, while the actual victims are depersonalized and reduced to mere cogs in the establishment machine. Instead of embracing identity politics and an ideology that endlessly criticizes every activity of local law enforcement, it is crucial that lawmakers start a constructive discourse and look to collaborate on cooperative solutions to the complicated problems associated with policing.
Considering the immense ocean of polarization that exists today, it will not be a simple endeavor for us to discover that initial speck of common ground to build on. However, this is the only way we can ensure that decisions are truly made in the public interest rather than being influenced by petty self-interests that ultimately benefit no one, except for those that invoke them.
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