Feb. 15, 9:21 a.m. This story has been updated to include MPD comments made at a public meeting Feb. 15.
The First District Metropolitan Police District (MPD) Sub Station (500 E St. SE) will not close, First District Commander Tasha Bryant said.
“The substation is NOT and will NOT be closing,” the Commander wrote in an email to the Hill Rag. “There will be no changes.”
Rumors had circulated on social media and in the community that the substation, located off Marion Park, would close or that there would be changes to the 24-hour, seven day a week operations there.
Ward 6 Councilmember Charles Allen (D) said that starting Friday evening he received confused emails from neighbors concerned about what they were hearing from patrol officers. He reached out to MPD for clarification, he added, notingthat he did not support the closure of the substation.
MPD told Allen that MPD was not planning to close the substation, the Councilmember recalled. Allen said he had not seen any plans, but, Allen said he understood from conversations with MPD that police were considering an operations change.
There are two stations in the First District, or 1D –the substation and the main station at 1 M St. SW. There are also two roll calls, or briefings, at the outset of shifts. Allen said his understanding was that MPD wanted to streamline the process to make the beginning and end of shifts more efficient for officers.
Similar adjustments were recently made in the Fourth District with some success, he added. Rather than a reduction of officers, MPD considered basing units such as the Mountain Bike Tactical Unit and Crime Suppression Team in the substation.
Allen said there was “strong and good leadership” at the First District. He said that community confusion stemmed from a lack of communication.
“MPD, I think, felt like there would actually be a lot of officers coming in and going throughout the neighborhood from that space,” Allen said. “But I think the bottom line is, they failed to communicate –to me, to the ANC [Advisory Neighborhood] Commissioners or to the community –and so, in that vacuum of not having any information, understandably a lot of concern and speculation swirled to the point where MPD had to step away from what they were going to do.”
Officers speaking at public meetings seemed to confirm the reasoning. At Monday night’s meeting of ANC 6D, MPD 1D Captain Kevin Harding told commissioners that there would no changes at the First District Substation due to community feedback.
He reiterated that position for ANC 6B Tuesday, noting that the reorganization was considered in part as a way to deal with attriction in the force. The First District has lost over 110 officers to resignation and retirement, he said. The reorganization would have allowed for more effective deployment of officers and resources.
“If anything, the number of patrol men and women would have increased,” Harding told ANC 6B, “simply because the number of cars that are at the substation –if we bring those to one location, then we can deploy more people into every vehicle.” Harding said the plan would have allowed the First District to strategically expand the resources it uses. “Honestly, it would have put more men and women actually in Sector 2, or PSAs 104, 107 and 108.”
ANC 6B01 Commissioner Frank Avery said the plan discarded due to community pushback “ironically” seems to have addressed many neighbor concerns. “It seems like something just got lost in translation,” the commissioner said at Wednesday’s meeting.
Avery added that he understood the 1D reconfiguration would now be deferred as late as the fall. “I hope that you all don’t feel like it’s necessary to wait that long, and I hope you’ll consider using our [newly established] Public Safety Committee to articulate this plan and possibly move it up sooner,” Avery said, acknowledging that neighbors on the call may disagree but adding that a clearer understanding of what is happening helps neighbors clarify their views.
MPD had not responded to questions clarifying the above consideration of changes in First District operations prior to the ANC meeting.
Captain Harding appeared at the Feb. 15 meeting of ANC 6B. Find information at anc6b.org.
This story will be updated with any additional response received from MPD, and with any additional information from the ANC 6B meeting.