For D.C. Police, Enforcing The Law Is Increasingly "Problematic"

A shooting in southeast Washington, D.C. that left one person dead and more than 20 others injured last weekend hasn’t garnered much national attention, but it’s been a growing controversy in the city itself. A crowd of several hundred had gathered on Saturday for a block party, violating the city’s coronavirus-related ban on gatherings of more than 50 people, when shots rang out. Now many in the city are wondering why the party wasn’t broken up by police before the violence broke out, but Mayor Muriel Bowser inadvertently admitted during a press conference that enforcing the law has become problematic in the city. From DCist:

In response to a reporter’s question about whether this event would change the city’s policies regarding mass gatherings, Bowser irately responded that she was “surprised that your coverage is about mass gatherings and not about people shooting guns because that’s what the issue is.”

Bowser also noted that the event brought up a conflict between those who wished police had taken a more aggressive enforcement stance and others who may disagree with tackling public health concerns with police.

“We don’t think it’s OK for a block party to grow in that size,” said Bowser. “And at the same time, I’m saying that there’s other people who are saying, ‘Well you can’t send the police in, Bowser. That’s just going to cause more trouble.’”

No offense to Mayor Bowser, but who gives a damn what “others” are saying? She’s the mayor. What matters is what she says, and unfortunately it sounds like from Bowser on down, the attitude in Washington, D.C. at the moment is that more laws are good, but actual law enforcement is a bad thing.

The tension between mass gatherings and police enforcement has been discussed before by the police commander in charge of the Sixth District, where Saturday’s shooting occurred. In a meeting of the Anacostia Coordinating Council last month, Commander Durriyyah Habeebullah said she was actively recruiting partners from other agencies to help the police department address large gatherings, which she said were “everywhere” and were “contentious when the police come to try and disrupt them.”

Habeebullah said she was looking into asking the Department of Public Works to tow vehicles at gatherings, asking the city’s “Night Mayor” to help with possible solutions, and considering requesting that the D.C. Department of Consumer and Regulatory Affairs fine individuals who may be vending at parties without a license.

“It’s not just a police issue, it can’t just be addressed with policing, because … it’ll be contentious, and that’s not what we want with 2020 policing,” said Habeebullah.

Yeah, towing people’s cars won’t be contentious at all. It sounds like the mindset of those in charge of local goverment in DC is that it’s better to have angry residents go after tow truck drivers than law enforcement officers.

Bowser and city council members in Washington, D.C. have boxed themselves in here. As Democrats, they believe that the answer to every problem is more government, but they’ve also been vocally supportive of the idea of reforming the police department and de-policing as much as possible. The mayor says that sending police in to break up a block party would “cause more trouble,” but would it really have been worse than having nearly two-dozen people shot?

If the mayor isn’t going to enforce the prohibitions against large gatherings or wearing a mask, then why bother pretending that these orders actually mean anything at all? In fact, by insinuating that police won’t be responding to these block parties, she’s ensuring that there will be more of them in the days and weeks ahead. And rather than focus resources and efforts on going after violent criminals in Washington, D.C., I suspect Bowser and her cohorts on the city council will soon be calling for more gun control laws to be put in place, though they’ll likely remain silent on just who they expect to enforce them.