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Ward 8 Residents Demand Greater Police Presence, Respect

WASHINGTON INFORMER — As Ward 8 residents continue to fall victim to violent crime, questions about the nature of police-community relations — particularly the police’s level of involvement in curbing illegal activity — continue to weigh heavy on the minds of community leaders.

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Sam P. K. Collins

As Ward 8 residents continue to fall victim to violent crime, questions about the nature of police-community relations — particularly the police’s level of involvement in curbing illegal activity — continue to weigh heavy on the minds of community leaders.

While no quick fix exists for Robbie Woodland, a Congress Heights resident and advisory neighborhood commissioner, expressed a desire for officers who quickly and effectively respond to residents’ calls and proactively crack down on illegal activity known to occur in front of business establishments and other public areas.

“You have a group of us who don’t want policing. At the same time, you don’t want the shooting. I don’t know if there’s a healthy medium,” Woodland told The Washington Informer.

Woodland, commissioner of Single Member District 8C03, which includes parts of Martin Luther King Jr. Avenue, Wheeler Road, and Trenton Place, mentioned a private meeting, that took place on the evening of July 18 in the community room of the Metropolitan Police Department’s 7th District Police Station on Alabama Avenue.

Participants included three parents, 7th District Commander Andre Wright, D.C. Attorney General Karl Racine, members of the Gang Task Force and Department of Youth and Rehabilitative Services — all of whom Woodland said she contacted to address the recent spates of mob attacks allegedly orchestrated by youth attending local public and public charter schools.

Woodland, sworn into office at the beginning of the year, recounted seeing transit officials stand after a large group, referred to as the Swag Boys and Swag Girls, jumped a woman and her three children at Anacostia Metro Station in April. She said police officers didn’t arrive until she called for assistance.

Weeks after that incident, Woodland endeavored to identify teens filmed in other assaults of their peers on the street and visits to their apartments.

She said those videos along with a growing list of complaints from constituents, compelled her to pressure 7thDistrict and other partners for solutions that showed that they prioritized residents’ safety. She made clear that she couldn’t accept crime reduction alternatives, particularly those that placed that responsibility in the hands of people with no law enforcement experience.

“I think policing is needed to a degree. I’m not saying for them to harass people, but we as a community can’t do the policing ourselves,” Woodland said. “The violence interrupters don’t interrupt violence. They’re only in a small area of Southeast, and they have to get approval before they get into another area. They’re not licensed carriers so they’ll be running with the rest of us when there’s shooting.”

Addressing an Ongoing Problem

As of July 23, MPD reported 94 homicides citywide, including that of 11-year-old Karon Brown, allegedly murdered on July 18 by an adult male in the aftermath of a fight between adults and youngsters. Other violent crimes of prominence in the District include assault with a deadly weapon and robbery, though instances of the former decreased by four percent over the last year.

11-year old Karon Brown was fatally shot by an adult male in the aftermath of a fight. (Courtesy photo/NBC4)

11-year old Karon Brown was fatally shot by an adult male in the aftermath of a fight. (Courtesy photo/NBC4)

To proactively tackle crime, the Bowser administration has relied on MPD officers and violence interrupters, people with community rapport who help settle disputes.

In her Fiscal Year 2020 budget, D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser (D) allocated $2.5 million to the Office of Neighborhood Engagement and Safety for the expansion of the program, currently in its second year of operation. That infusion of funds provided seven additional full-time violence interrupters, case managers, and community activities in places with the greatest need.

At its inception, ONSE’s full-time and part-time violence interrupters lived and maintained a presence in 20 District neighborhoods.

The violence interrupters and Pathways Program, through which 50 of what’s considered the District’s most likely violent offenders gain resources for self-sustainability, came out of the Neighborhood Engagement Achieves Results Act, legislation passed in 2016 to explore community-based solutions to the underlying causes of violent crime.

In a victory for Black Lives Matter DC activists, a District Court judge ruled last month that MPD must record detailed stop-and-frisk data, including the race of the person stopped, the reason for the stop, and whether the stop resulted in the discovery of criminal activity.

This happened weeks after the off-duty MPD officer who allegedly killed D’Quan Young last year, escaped both federal and District charges in the 24-year-old’s death.

Last Saturday, after Ward 8 Councilmember Trayon White (D) gave his annual address at Martha’s Table at the Commons in Southeast, Black Lives Matter DC Core Organizer April Goggans led a community dialogue intended to explore alternatives to what had been described as over-policing.

White said that officers need to respect Ward 8 residents more and show more initiative in quelling violent crime. “We need more police who value their jobs and understand the residents,” he told The Informer, acknowledging what he described as MPD’s marketing strategy pushing for more amicable community relationships.

“The behavior I have personally witnessed lately is in the spirit of apathy and disrespect,” White continued. “In one instance, it was in front of [MPD] Chief Peter Newsham. I can’t understand how people are getting shot on the same streets, and there’s no police chase, no suspect, no nothing every 2 to 3 days”

In response to an inquiry about a perception among some Ward 8 residents that police officers stationed throughout that part of the District could do more to proactively tackle violent crime, and address residents’ other concerns, an MPD spokesperson said the following:

“A core part of policing is building and maintaining strong relationships with the community, to not just be present when a crime has occurred but to be engaged and responsive all the time,” the public affairs officer wrote in an email on Monday. “Our officers actively respond to calls for service every day and are trained to have empathy and compassion for all residents.”

This post originally appeared in the Washington Informer.

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Bay Area

De La Fuente Runs for Mayor

De La Fuente said he “will not tolerate homeless encampments where violence and drug abuse are rampant.” These encroachers are disrespecting our neighborhoods, our schools, our businesses, our residents, taking over our parks and defacing our city. He said the residents and businesses in our low-income flatland neighborhoods have been disproportionately affected by these encampments, and they deserve better. In collaboration with the county, we will serve our homeless residents who need it most, but not at the expense of other residents and businesses in our city.”

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Photo Caption: Ignacio De La Fuente

By Paul Cobb and news services

Ignacio De La Fuente, the former President of the Oakland City Council for 11 years, says he will run for mayor to rescue the city from its deep troubles.

He said he is returning to political leadership after a 10-year absence. Claiming that he is “sick and tired of what’s happening to our city,” and he can’t just stand by and witness “the city that I love become a place where people are afraid to walk the streets, to take their children to parks, to go out to dinner with their families or to park their cars on the street. I cannot let our city continue [to] be a place where seniors are assaulted and robbed in broad daylight, a place where illegal side-shows are constant throughout the city and a place where children are being shot and killed! ENOUGH IS ENOUGH! Oakland is not a dumping ground, and it is time to take action!”

He, along with the support of his former council colleague Nate Miley, who is now serving as an Alameda County Supervisor, and who is sponsoring a fundraiser for De La Fuente, has boldly declared that he will “do whatever it takes to increase the number of police officers, but I will give them the resources that they need to help them do their job, but above all, I will provide them the back up and political support that they need and deserve to perform their job for our residents and for our businesses.”

He said he “will not tolerate homeless encampments where violence and drug abuse are rampant.” These encroachers are disrespecting our neighborhoods, our schools, our businesses, our residents, taking over our parks and defacing our city. De La Fuente said the residents and businesses in our low-income flatland neighborhoods have been disproportionately affected by these encampments, and they deserve better. In collaboration with the county, we will serve our homeless residents who need it most, but not at the expense of other residents and businesses in our city.”

He wants to change the focus and emphasis of how the city spends its infrastructure money on what is truly needed by “repairing potholes, taking back and beautifying our parks, fixing our sewers and providing robust programming for our recreation centers and libraries to enrich the lives of our kids and seniors.”

In a characteristic fearless, colorful style that he achieved a no-nonsense reputation De La Fuente announced “The job of mayor is not for the faint of heart! Oakland is a great city that needs a mayor with the political backbone and experience to make the tough decisions to get this city back on track!

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Activism

Sheriff’s Deputies Skate with Marin City Youth

Sgt. Scotto and Deputy Gasparini, two officers from the Marin County Probation Department, came to interact with the youths and help them learn to skate and play basketball. Sharika Gregory, who hosted the event, really appreciates how Scotto and Gasparini interacted with the kids and said that it made a great difference.

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Top: Scotto lifting Aria, 7, so she can make her basketball shot. Middle: Sgt. Scotto and Dep. Gasparini of the Marin County Probation Department. Bottom: Scotto playing limbo. (Photos by Godfrey Lee)
Top: Scotto lifting Aria, 7, so she can make her basketball shot. Middle: Sgt. Scotto and Dep. Gasparini of the Marin County Probation Department. Bottom: Scotto playing limbo. (Photos by Godfrey Lee)

By Godfrey Lee

The Father’s Day Skating event on Sunday, June 12, at the Golden Gate Village’s Basketball Court in Marin City was a successful event that contributed positively to the relationship between the Marin County Sheriff’s Department and the Marin City community and helped some of the children get to know the officers.

Sgt. Scotto and Deputy Gasparini, two officers from the Marin County Probation Department, came to interact with the youths and help them learn to skate and play basketball. Sharika Gregory, who hosted the event, really appreciates how Scotto and Gasparini interacted with the kids and said that it made a great difference.

During the event, Scotto helped lift Aria, a 7-year-old girl, so she could make a basketball shot into the basket. Later Scotto played limbo with the children and tried his best to go under the rope.

The community generously contributed to the skating event. The Corte Madera Safeway and Costco donated the food. The Costco in Novato gave the skates. The Target in Marin City and the Marin County Probation Department also gave skates and gift cards.

Rev. Stephanie Ryder and the Redwood Presbyterian Church in Larkspur, also donated money to help to buy more skates for the events.

Gregory said that this was a very wholesome event for the community and will continue to host similar events in the future.

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Activism

Advocates Pressure Gov. Newsom to Fund Health Equity, Racial Justice in Final Budget

“Our state boasts a staggering $97 billion budget surplus,” said Ron Coleman, managing director of the California Pan-Ethnic Health Network. “If not now, when? Given the devastating impact of racism on the health and well-being of Californians of color it’s a travesty of the highest order that racial justice isn’t even mentioned in the Governor’s budget proposal,”

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Attendees were encouraged to contact the governor’s office and the Legislature to keep the pressure on them to include the fund.
Attendees were encouraged to contact the governor’s office and the Legislature to keep the pressure on them to include the fund.

By Edward Henderson, California Black Media

On June 8, community leaders, public health advocates and racial justice groups convened for a virtual press event to urge Gov. Gavin Newsom to support the Health Equity and Racial Justice Fund (HERJ Fund).

The initiative supports community-based organizations addressing the underlying social, environmental and economic factors that limit people’s opportunities to be healthy — such as poverty, violence and trauma, environmental hazards, and access to affordable housing and healthy food. Health advocates would also address longstanding California problems related to health equity and racial justice problems.

The fund cleared a significant hurdle last week when the state Legislature included $75 million in their joint budget proposal. This means both the Assembly and Senate support the HERJ Fund and they will go into negotiations with the governor to seek his support to approve it.

“Our state boasts a staggering $97 billion budget surplus,” said Ron Coleman, managing director of the California Pan-Ethnic Health Network. “If not now, when? Given the devastating impact of racism on the health and well-being of Californians of color it’s a travesty of the highest order that racial justice isn’t even mentioned in the Governor’s budget proposal,”

Last Wednesday’s virtual community meeting and press event capped off a series of rallies held by supporters in cities across the state calling on Newsom to make room in his budget for the HERJ Fund.

Coleman facilitated the online event featuring representatives from service organizations speaking about their support for the fund and presenting plans for how the money would be used to support their shared mission of providing services to minority and underserved communities in California.

Jenedra Sykes, a partner at Arboreta Group, spoke about inequalities that exist in funding for smaller grassroots nonprofits and how traditionally larger, white-led nonprofits use state funds to subcontract with grassroots nonprofits to provide services to communities of color at lower costs.

“The faith-based non-profits on the ground have the relationships, the access to those who are most vulnerable and marginalized among us who disproportionately have poorer health outcomes,” said Sykes. “This bill also evens the playing field a bit. Instead of going through the middleman of the established larger non-profits, funding will go directly to the people who are doing the work. The passion, the heart, the skills, the talents are there. It’s about the resources to fund these talents”

Coleman gave attendees an update on the status of the HERJ Fund’s path to inclusion in the state budget.

Now that the state Legislature has included the fund in their spending proposal for Fiscal Year 2022-23 (it was not included in Newsom’s “May Revise”), it must survive negotiations with the governor’s office before the June 15 deadline to finalize the budget.

A final budget needs to be in place by June 30, the last day for the governor to approve.

HERJ Fund supporters remain hopeful that funding for their program will be included in the final budget.

Updated mechanisms about the budget were added to the HERJ Fund’s proposal to alleviate those concerns and supporters of the fund believe that Newsom is out of excuses.

“Our best shot at getting the HERJ Fund in the budget is now. We are hoping that all of you will keep the pressure on the governor to ensure that this becomes a reality,” Coleman said. “If he does care about the intersections of health equity and racial justice then we will see funding.”

Attendees were encouraged to contact the governor’s office and the Legislature to keep the pressure on them to include the fund. You can visit herjfund.org to learn more about the proposal and the effort to include it in the state budget.

Nadia Kean-Ayub, executive director of Rainbow Spaces, shared details about the valuable events and services community-based non-profits provide. She said there is no shortage of families in need who want to participate in their organizations’ programs but, due to limited funding for transportation, many people never access services meant to help them.

“This tells me that when things are created in our communities, they are not making the impact we need in our Black, Brown and API communities,” Kean-Ayub said. “I will continue to fight. To really make this grow, we need the state to understand that the true impact comes from the community and the people who are living these issues and who know how to help them.”

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