On Saturday, DC Police Chief Robert Contee held a summit with the city’s teens to discuss the impact of rising crime on their communities.
DC Police Chief Robert Contee held a summit with the city’s teens to discuss the impact of rising crime on their communities.
The Summit – “Elevating Youth Voices” – was held at Eastern High School in Ward 6 and organized with the Rethinking DC Youth and Policing Program at George Washington University and the Metropolitan Police Department.
The goal of Saturday’s summit was to hear how teens in the district view law enforcement in their schools and communities.
“I want to make sure that in this place you are not only heard, but there is also action that comes with the things we hear,” Contee said. “Have your time at the microphone. When you join your group, do not be embarrassed.”
After remarks, Que Wallace spoke to the group. A former DC police officer whose 17-year-old daughter was killed by a stray bullet in August 2017.
“Decisions you make today affect everyone’s lives,” Wallace told teens at the summit.
Wallace’s daughter, Jamahri Sydnor, was just days away from starting college at Florida A&M University.
LIVE: Metropolitan Police Department Youth Summit – Closing Session
Listen to https://t.co/bk26yNEXix for a stream of subtitles.
– Major Muriel Bowser (@MayorBowser) December 4, 2021
“There are other ways to handle conflicts,” Que Wallace continued. “You do not have to pick up a gun and not shoot anyone.”
WTOP 2017 story: Teenager dies days after Brentwood shooting
So far in 2021, more than 205 people have been killed in DC – the largest number since 2003. Eight of those victims were under 18 years of age.
“When we have these conversations about things that affect you,” Police Chief Contee said earlier today. “I think you agree with me that if we are to talk about you, you must be a part of the conversation.”
“In some rooms, young people have been put on the sidelines in silence and your voices are not heard. It stops today, you have direct access to the Chief of Police of the Metropolitan Police Department,” he added.
Before teens broke out into individual discussion groups with district law enforcement members, Contee stressed the importance of believing things could change.
“Do not be limited by your immediate environment, by where you live. Do not allow your neighborhood to define who you are, ”he said.
“Yes, I’m from Carver Terrace, but that’s not stopping me from running a half-billion-dollar agency in the Metropolitan Police Department in Washington, DC. My neighborhood, from which I started, did not dictate where I ended up.”
Many students summed up their attitudes after returning from focus groups later in the day. Not everything was good.
Referring to problems ranging from bullying, to metal detectors, lack of police training, to racial profiling – many students saw the current police presence in their schools and neighborhoods as “not good”.
Contee noted at the start of the summit that he both expected and invited negative feedback.
“When we talk about you, you should be a part of the conversation,” Contee said. “If you want to see policing differently in your community, what should it look like?”
The WTOP’s Acacia James contributed to this report.
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