WASHINGTON — A fact-finding report commissioned by the D.C. Council seems to confirm what many in the Black community in the District have long since claimed. They are policed far more aggressively than the other racial groups that make up the District.
A report tracked the activity of the Metropolitan Police Departments' Gun Recovery and Narcotics units over a six-month period. It found that Black people were 88% of stops, 91% of arrests, and 100% of use-of-force incidents.
The numbers don’t track demographically. Yes, Black people are currently the majority, 46% of the population. So higher numbers are to be expected. But White residents are 37% of the population, and they only count for 5% of stops. So. next to none of them are involved in any of these activities? Or are they just not being looked at.
And it's not just this specialized unit. Last year, MPD released department-wide numbers showing that Black residents were 70% of all stops, while White people were 15%. The police aren't just patrolling where only Black folks live. The ACLU has published data spanning four years showing these figures to be citywide, the disparate rates covering 90% of D.C.
The conversations that we say we want to have around race and policing have to start with numbers like these. One of two things is happening here: Either the Black community is engaged in far more criminal activity than the others, which we know not to be true or the people are being targeted. The numbers suggest the latter, and if you ask anybody in the community they would agree.
Talks about reports like these usually turn into a chicken or egg conversations. Which came first, the crime or the policing? And if it wasn’t for the crime, we wouldn’t see these numbers. What we need to talk about is the third option. It is thoughts about crime, and who commits them, that leads to these numbers. That’s what needs to be addressed. Our biases that fuel these thoughts. If we confront them, then the changes we claim to want will start to happen. If not, the numbers will stay the same as will the level of distrust that plagues communities of color across this entire country.