Robert J. Contee III announced new Community Focused Patrol Unit to focus on violent crime in the district on July 21, 2021.
The Metropolitan Police Department is establishing a new patrol unit focused on combating the recent spike in violent crime through what they describe as "intelligence driven" policing.
The new Community Focused Patrol Unit aims to strengthen relationships with the community, said Chief Robert Contee III at a Wednesday press conference announcing the program. Three squads of eight officers, each led by a sergeant, will travel around the city by bike and scooter.
"This is a direct result of conversations I've had with communities," Contee said. Community members have asked him to get officers out of patrol cars and actually engage with communities, he said, adding that bikes and scooters will allow officers to move more easily throughout neighborhoods.
The unit's hours and locations will be determined based on recent crime data. The unit will initially deploy officers to Columbia Heights, and will eventually expand the program to include Parkwood, Washington Highlands, and Bloomingdale, with more neighborhoods to follow. MPD did not immediately respond to questions about when the program will launch.
The announcement comes after a shooting in Congress Heights on Friday killed 6-year-old Nyiah Courtney and injured five others. Later in the weekend, a drive-by shooting outside Nationals Park injured three people and halted a game against the San Diego Padres.
These shootings are the latest in a sustained spike in killings in the city. Homicides in the District reached their highest point in the past 15 years in 2020, at nearly 200 people. 2021 is on track to meet that number with 105 killings as of this week.
In a letter to the D.C. Council earlier this week, D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser said she will be directing MPD to use as much overtime as necessary to address the violence. It's not yet clear how this new community-focused patrol unit will fit into the wider strategy and what the budget of that strategy will be.
Contee said Wednesday that his team is "down 215 officers from October 2020," and is navigating a need to leverage resources efficiently. D.C.'s Police Union claimed as recently as last week that widespread departures in the department were the result of police reform measures passed by the council. (MPD's own data, however, suggest resignations are in line with recent years.)
In April, the D.C. Police Reform Commission — assembled by the D.C. Council following last summer's racial justice protests — recommended shrinking MPD, echoing longstanding calls from activists.
This story is from DCist.com, the local news website of WAMU.