Mayor: No change in police tactics despite year’s violent start

WASHINGTON — It has been a violent start to the year in D.C., which has averaged one killing a day since the new year.

There have been six more homicides so far in 2019 than this time last year and city leadership says it’s sticking to the police tactics in place.

Damon Dukes, 25, of Northwest, was the seventh person killed in the city so far this year. Officers found him shot just before 8 p.m. Sunday night near Howard University Hospital in the Bloomingdale neighborhood of D.C.

“As you know we had five homicides over the weekend,” said D.C. Police Chief Peter Newsham at a news conference Monday, Jan. 7.

Newsham outlined how two people, one of which was a retired D.C Police civilian employee, were killed before the house was set on fire in Southeast on Saturday.

The chief joined Mayor Muriel Bowser, who said one part of the solution is that the chief assesses the need and where resources should deploy with his command staff on a daily basis.

“Our focus continues to be on how we deploy our officers and resources to focus on illegal guns, focus on repeat violent offenders, work hand-in-hand with our federal partners so they are taking gun crime as seriously as we are,” Bowser said.

The mayor said she is concerned about the violent streak that seems to be continuing into 2019.

The District ended last year with a 38 percent increase in homicides over 2017, according to police data. Despite the continuing rise in homicides, Bowser wants to stick with the violence interruption plan put in place with the city council last year.

“We worked hand-in-hand with the council in the last year to implement strategies that we all know can have an impact. We haven’t seen it yet, but [strategies that] can have an impact on violence,” Bowser said.

Those strategies include the Neighborhood Engagement Achieves Results Amendment Act, or the NEAR Act, endorsed by Black Lives Matter D.C., Stop Police Terror Project D.C. and the American Civil Liberties Union of the District of Columbia.

D.C. Police Union Chair Stephen Bigelow disagrees with keeping the policies status quo, telling WTOP that the city needs to reassess its police tactics.

“It’s safe to say that we can expect this trend to continue. Anytime you’re losing lives, you have a responsibility to review your tactics and see if they are effective,” Bigelow said.

He is hoping to meet with councilmembers to craft policies that work for officers on the street.

“We need to reassess our tactics. It’s a tactics issue as well as a political pressure issue,” Bigelow said.

The mayor also cited the opportunity efforts the city is putting forward to afford offenders a second chance.

“We know many people, if they have opportunity, they won’t be involved in criminal activity. They will be safer, Bowser said.

Editor’s Note: This story has been changed to reflect the correct location of Damon Dukes’ killing.

Megan Cloherty

WTOP Investigative Reporter Megan Cloherty primarily covers breaking news, crime and courts.

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