DC’s top cop holds crime summit with city youth

D.C. Police Chief Robert Contee held a summit with city teenagers to discuss the impact of rising crime on their communities.

D.C. Police Chief Robert Contee speaks at the Metropolitan Police Department’s Youth Summit held at Eastern High School in Northeast, DC. (Photo MPD)

The summit — “Elevating Youth Voices” — was held at Eastern High School in Ward 6 and organized with the Rethinking DC Youth and Policing Program at George Washington University and the Metropolitan Police Department.

The goal of Saturday’s summit was to hear how District teens view law enforcement in their schools and communities.

“I want to make sure that in this place, not only are you heard, but there’s also action that comes along with the things that we hear,” Contee said. “Have your time at the mic. When you get into your group, don’t be bashful.”

Following remarks, Que Wallace spoke to the group. A former D.C. police sergeant whose 17-year old daughter was killed by a stray bullet in August 2017.

“Decisions you make today impact the lives of everybody,” Wallace told teenagers at the summit.

Wallace’s daughter, Jamahri Sydnor, was only days from beginning college at Florida’s A&M University.

“There are other ways to deal with conflict,” Que Wallace continued. “You don’t have to pick up a gun and shoot nobody.”

WTOP 2017 story: Teen dies days after Brentwood shooting

So far in 2021, more than 205 people have been killed in D.C. — the largest number since 2003. Eight of those victims were under the age of 18.

“When we’re having these conversations about things that impact you,” Police Chief Contee said earlier today. “I think you would agree with me that if we’re going to be talking about you, you should be part of the conversation.”

“In some spaces, young people have been sidelined in silence and your voices are not being heard. That stops today, you have direct access to the chief of police of the Metropolitan Police Department,” he added.

Before the teens broke off into individual discussion groups with members of the district’s law enforcement, Contee emphasized the importance of believing things can change.

“Don’t be limited by your immediate environment, by where you live. Don’t allow your neighborhood to define who you are,” he said.

“Yeah, I’m from Carver Terrace, but that doesn’t stop me from running a half a billion dollar agency in the Metropolitan Police Department in Washington, D.C.. My neighborhood that I started from did not dictate where I ended up.”

Students are given the floor at the Metropolitan Police Department’s Youth Summit held at Eastern High School in Northeast, DC. (Photo MPD)

Many students summed up their positions after returning from focus groups later in the day. Not all of it was good.

Citing issues ranging from bullying, to metal detectors, lack of police training, to racial profiling – many students saw the present police presence in their schools and neighborhoods “not good”.

Contee remarked at the beginning of the summit, he both expected and invited negative feedback.

“When we’re talking about you, you should be part of the conversation,” Contee said. “If you want to see policing different in your community, then what should it look like?”

WTOP’s Acacia James contributed to this report.

Joshua Barlow

Joshua Barlow is a writer, composer, and producer who has worked for CGTN, Atlantic Public Media, and National Public Radio. He lives in Northeast Washington, D.C., where he pays attention to developments in his neighborhood, economic issues, and social justice.

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