DC police, Howard University join forces for community listening sessions

D.C. police is teaming up with Howard University for a series of listening sessions in hopes of improving relations between police and the communities they serve.

Led by Bahiyyah M. Muhammad, a criminology professor at the university, along with students and trained instructors, the sessions aim to bring together a diverse group of citizens from each of the District’s eight wards to share their perspectives with officers.

“I look forward to listening to and talking with the community more in the coming months about how we can partner together to earn trust and build relationships, while safeguarding our residents,” D.C. police Acting Chief Robert J. Contee said in a news release.

“If the last year has taught us nothing else, it is that we must guide our actions not by what we can do, but what we should do. We must always be ready and willing to change, adjust and learn,” Contee said.

This year’s listening sessions are an adaptation of Howard’s Policing Inside Out (PIO) program, which was started by Muhammad in 2015.

That program is a semester-long academic course that would meet once a week, where roughly 30 “students” evenly split from the community and from police would attend class.

Conversations held during the semester would cover various subjects, such as the use-of-force and stop-and-frisk policies, in a way that strengthens trust for all involved.

Some of the tangible changes that the PIO program has brought about is a required visit to the National Museum of African American History and Culture as a part of training.

“This partnership is a positive step in the right direction to create open lines of conversation between academia, the local community and law enforcement,” said Howard University President Wayne A.I. Frederick in a statement.

“I’m proud of the work Dr. Muhammad has achieved through the Policing Inside Out program at Howard University, and I appreciate how MPD has embraced this initiative as an opportunity to build stronger relationships with the District residents,” Frederick said.

The first session will be held on April 21 from 7 to 8:30 p.m. Those who are interested in attending can register online.

Matthew Delaney

Matt Delaney is a digital web writer/editor who joined WTOP in 2020.

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