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District of Columbia

D.C. police chief: ‘Community Engagement Policing’ will address hate crimes

Mayor, MPD announce new strategies to combat violence



D.C. Police Chief Robert Contee (Photo public domain)

A ‘Focused Patrol and Community Engagement Policing Strategy’ announced last week by D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser and D.C. Police Chief Robert Contee to combat the rising incidents of violent crime in the city will have a positive impact in addressing hate crimes targeting the LGBTQ community, according to Contee.

Bowser and Contee provided details of what they said is an expanded version of the existing community engagement policies in place for D.C. police officers at an April 27 news conference.

In response to a question from the Washington Blade asking if the expanded community engagement strategy would help police investigate and prevent hate crimes, including those targeting the LGBTQ community, Contee said a key to investigating hate crimes is building a relationship of trust between the police and members of the community who are at risk of becoming victims of a hate crime.

“So, one thing it might very well do is strengthen that relationship,” Contee said. “And so, with that you can see an actual increase in the reporting because people are more comfortable having those conversations with our police officers,” he said.

He was referring to the belief by police officials and community activists that many hate crimes in D.C. and other locations go unreported because victims, especially LGBTQ victims, are often reluctant to call police or other law enforcement agencies.

D.C. police hate crime statistics show that for at least the past five years the largest number of reported hate crimes involve LGBTQ people as victims, with the victim’s “sexual orientation” having the highest number of cases compared to other categories such as race, religion, or ethnicity.

The second highest “victim” category is an individual’s gender identity as a transgender person, the D.C. police statistics show.

“This is actually about a police officer who gets out of their car who’s engaging with and who they have a relationship with” members of the community, Contee said in referring to the expanded community engagement policy.

A joint statement released by the mayor’s office and the Metropolitan Police Department says the new policing strategy “will utilize data to identify specific areas in each police district and employ focused patrols for proactive policing, community engagement, and problem solving within a small geographical area.”

The statement adds, “The MPD members assigned to these areas will proactively engage in business and building checks, assist in traffic enforcement, collaborate with the community, and identify area-specific issues with police officials to problem solve and determine necessary solutions to community concerns and crime.”  

News of the expanded community engagement policing plans came about three months after gay Dupont Circle Advisory Neighborhood Commissioner Vincent Slatt expressed concern that Dupont Circle area residents, including LGBTQ residents, were being targeted for armed robberies including carjackings by juveniles coming to the neighborhood from other parts of the city.

Slatt and others who spoke at a community listening session organized by D.C. Attorney General Brian Schwalb, whose office oversees prosecuting juvenile offenders, called for changing the existing city law that prevents the public disclosure of the outcome of cases where a juvenile is arrested for a violent crime.       

“The mayor’s announcement of a shift to data-driven decisions on policing strategies is both a welcome and concerning announcement,” Slatt told the Blade. “As a data librarian, I can say that data-driven policy is, in fact, a good thing, however there is both ‘good’ and ‘bad’ data,” he said. “Full disclosure on the data being used, how it is collected and shared, are important for it to work well and to build community trust.”

Slatt said he has not yet seen a noticeable change in policing in the Dupont Circle neighborhood but continues to see an ongoing police presence that has been a part of the area in the recent past, including a police car parked outside the gay bar Larry’s Lounge not far from Dupont Circle. One suggestion he said that could enhance police presence would be for the MPD to set up “mini” police stations in some of the vacant storefront buildings across the city.

The official announcement of the expanded community engagement policing policy also came one day after Chief Contee surprised city officials and community activists by announcing he will retire from his position as police chief on June 1 to take a new job as an assistant director at the FBI.

Contee’s departure ends his 33-year career with the MPD, which began in his role as a police cadet at the age of 17 and continued with a steady rise in the ranks of the department leading to his nomination by Bowser to become chief in December 2020 and the D.C. Council’s confirmation of his appointment in January 2021.

“He has pushed our criminal justice system to do more and be better,” Bowser said in a statement in response to Contee’s plans for leaving. “He has led MPD through an incredibly challenging time for our country – from the pandemic to January 6th and navigating the effects of a shrinking department during a time when gun violence is exploding across the nation,” the mayor said.

“He has been a phenomenal ambassador of what it means to be a police officer in D.C. – brilliant, compassionate, and determined to build a D.C. where all people feel safe and are safe,” Bowser concluded.

LGBTQ activists familiar with the D.C. police have said Contee has been one of the MPD’s most LGBTQ supportive police chiefs. He has been credited with being a strong supporter of the department’s LGBT Liaison Unit.


District of Columbia

Large crowds expected at Capital Pride parade, festival

Bowser says there are no credible threats to events



Mayor Muriel Bowser said last week at a press conference that there are no credible threats to D.C.’s Pride celebrations. (Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

Hundreds of thousands of people are expected to attend the Capital Pride Parade on Saturday.

The parade will follow a 1.5-mile route that will step off on 14th Street at T Street, N.W., and finish on P Street at 21st Street, N.W. A map of the expected parade route can be found on the Capital Pride website

The Capital Block Party will take place at the intersection of Q and 17th Streets, N.W., during the parade. The party will feature local vendors, food trucks and a 21+ beverage garden and it will also have a designated viewing area for families with children to watch the parade, along with other children’s activities. 

The fourth annual Pride on the Pier will take place at the Wharf during the parade. The event, hosted by the Washington Blade, LURe DC and the Wharf, will have a fireworks show, a DJ and more. 

The parade will be followed by the Capital Pride Festival on June 11. Taking place on Pennsylvania Avenue, N.W., the festival will feature more than 300 booths with local vendors, businesses and organizations. From 12-8 p.m., the Capital Pride Concert will host acts such as Broadway actress Idina Menzel and “RuPaul’s Drag Race” winner Monét X Change.

D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser last Thursday told the Washington Blade after she helped to raise the Progress Pride flag at the Wilson Building that there have been no credible threats to any upcoming Pride events in D.C. amid a rise in violence against the LGBTQ community. 

“MPD is constantly working with all of our agencies to make sure we have safe special events and we’re going to keep going with our planning, like we do every year,” Bowser said. “There’s always a scan for any threats to the District.”

The Metropolitan Police Department is investigating a bomb threat made on Twitter for the annual District Pride concert scheduled for June 29 at the Lincoln Theatre.

Temperatures are forecast to reach the mid-80s on Saturday and the low-90s on Sunday. Precipitation chances on both days are low.

With recent air quality issues, Alert DC is advising those with respiratory issues to wear masks, avoid strenuous activities and reduce time spent outdoors.

Further details and a full calendar of events can be found on the Capital Pride website.

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District of Columbia

Bowser: No credible threats to D.C. Pride events

Mayor spoke with the Blade after flag-raising ceremony at the Wilson Building



D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser at the flag-raising of the Progress Pride flag at the Wilson Building in D.C. on June 1, 2023. (Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser on Thursday said authorities have not received any credible threats to upcoming Pride events.

“We don’t have any to report,” she told the Washington Blade.

“MPD is constantly working with all of our agencies to make sure we have safe special events and we’re going to keep going with our planning, like we do every year,” added Bowser. “There’s always a scan for any threats to the District.”

Bowser spoke with the Blade after she joined D.C. Council Chair Phil Mendelson, Council members Anita Bonds, Charles Allen, Kenyon McDuffie and Zachary Parker, D.C. Attorney General Brian Schwalb, D.C. Mayor’s LGBTQ Affairs Office Director Japer Bowles and other officials and activists in raising the Progress Pride flag in front of the Wilson Building.

The Blade last month reported D.C. police are investigating a bomb threat a Twitter user made against the annual District Pride concert that will take place at the Lincoln Theater on June 29. Bowles in a May 19 statement said his office reported the tweet, but further stressed that “no credible threat at this time has been made.”

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District of Columbia

Point Foundation offers growing range of scholarships, support

‘Resources to succeed and thrive rather than just make it through’



Celina Gerbic, a member of the Point Foundation’s board of directors, speaks at last year’s event. (Washington Blade file photo by Michael Key)

Many in D.C. know the Point Foundation for its longstanding scholarship program and its popular Taste of Point fundraiser each spring. But the nonprofit is offering a growing range of services to its young scholars, including mental health resources and social media support.

This year’s Taste of Point brought mixologists, restaurateurs, and donors together on May 3 at Room and Board for the annual celebration. With a number of local businesses and organizations donating to the silent auction, the event both raised money for Point Foundation’s scholarships while recognizing scholarship recipients and program alumni.

Among the lineup of featured speakers was one of the foundation’s flagship scholarship recipients, Rio Dennis, a dual master’s and law candidate at Georgetown University.

“I applied for the Point Foundation Flagship Scholarship because I believed in its mission of helping LGBTQ+ students achieve their academic goals while also providing training and resources so we can become better leaders within the LGBTQ community during school and long term,” Dennis said in her speech. 

The Taste of Point celebration began in 2013, born from another event called the Cornerstone Reception. Originally planned as a normal fundraiser with hor d’oeuvres, the foundation transformed it into the current Taste of Point celebration that facilitates partnerships with new, local restaurants.

Some restaurants, like Compass Rose and Hank’s Oyster Bar, partnered with Point Foundation for their first celebration. They have been catering at the fundraiser ever since.

“It really gives you the sense of the amount of love and the amount of community that we have around the Point Foundation and mission,” said Celina Gerbic, a member on the foundation’s board of directors. “They really see, with hearing from the scholars, what the effects can be if we’re raising money for those scholarships and mentoring opportunities.”

The event also allows the foundation to showcase new offerings, such as the Community College Scholarship that was rolled out in 2016. The community college program gives scholars a financial scholarship to support their costs in community college as well as coaching and admissions counseling for students planning to transfer to a university. 

The foundation is expanding all of its programs. In the next academic year, Point will offer 574 scholarships and grants to students around the country. This includes scholars in its BIPOC scholarship, the newest and largest program at Point.

Omari Foote, one of the current BIPOC scholarship recipients, appreciates how the scholarship recognizes her as a Black queer student. She is even encouraging other queer students and friends to apply to receive similar assistance.

However, Point is even more than that, Dennis notes. 

Before the school year started, the Point Foundation sent Dennis and all of the new flagship scholars to Los Angeles for a leadership development conference. Scholars discussed how to become active leaders on campus, how to ask for certain resources, what is offered by their campuses, and what tutoring programs are available.

Last year, Point also launched a joint partnership with an online therapy program to offer discounted prices for all scholars. 

“I have anxiety and depression and I struggled a lot in undergrad with trying to balance that with my having to support myself financially,” Dennis said. “So I was definitely grateful that Georgetown did have a program that is specifically for people of color to get free therapy and Point definitely helped with… asking those questions because it is one of those programs that isn’t as well publicized.”

Point even provided Dennis with a mentor who was also a Point Scholar in law school. Meeting monthly on Zoom and texting all throughout the month, Dennis’s mentor provides academic support that helps her use the right resources and make decisions about her career.

Foote finds the scholarship unique in other ways as well. As a recipient of a handful of other scholarships outside of Point, Foote’s interactions with her scholarship programs mostly stop after they send instructions for writing donor thank you notes. But Point keeps reaching out to maintain a relationship with scholars long after that.

“They’ve reached out to me to spotlight me on Instagram,” Foote said. “They reached out to me even for this dinner, paying for my transportation to and from the dinner … It’s like they’re not just there to give you the money. They’re there to really help you navigate the college world and to be that caring supportive system that a lot of us just don’t have anymore now that we are living by ourselves.”

Last November, the foundation also held an Out in Higher Ed Week, wherein they teach scholars how to be LGBTQ+ advocates on campus. These resources help students navigate the ins and outs of discussing LGBTQ+ issues in university settings.

After graduation, Dennis has even thought about returning to the Point Foundation as a mentor to help future Black queer students, especially first generation law students, balance their mental health and financial situations.

“Point has connected me with fellow scholars who have become my friends. Point has provided me with resources and support to succeed and thrive rather than just make it through,” Dennis said. “I definitely plan on continuing to be involved with Point.”

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