Statement by Ronald E Hampton, Convener of the Police Justice and Accountability Task Force, Institute of the Black World 21st Century
Responding to a spike in gun violence in D.C., Councilman Trayon White recently declared the city a “war zone” and called for the deployment of the National Guard to bring peace to impacted neighborhoods. While we must take the rise in gun violence and murders seriously, it is important that all parties concerned assess the situation somberly and employ strategies and solutions that will help to produce outcomes that will heal rather than harm our communities.
The recent call by Councilman White, other politicians and some community-based leaders, while well-meaning, is unfortunately a continuation of the kind of militarized policing that has terrorized, harmed and traumatized communities in the District of Columbia for decades. This is the sad result of the internalization of the idea if there is a public safety crisis in your city or neighborhood that it appears law enforcement cannot solve the solution is to call in the National Guard to manage it.
This is a bad idea. There is no evidence that calling in the army to police our community will do anything other than create a sense of false security. Ultimately, military occupation will lead to anger, alienation and mistrust of the police and the military in our communities.
I served in the DC Metropolitan Police Department for over 23 years, and calling on the National Guard out of desperation is not a new idea. However, I would like to suggest that the Mayor and The City Council doubled down on seriously engaging and empowering community-based organizations to offer their ideas about what’s needed to address and resolve the crisis. This includes providing our communities and neighborhoods with the much-needed social services and economic investment that was lacking prior to the COVID-19 Pandemic and is still insufficient post-Pandemic.
Finally, we really need to uplift our children and young adults by investing in the kinds of cultural, educational and economic programs that discourage antisocial and violent behavior and inspire hope that a better future is possible.
There is a role for law enforcement in this process in order to establish a safe environment for communities to thrive. But we need to reimagine what law enforcement looks like based on the serious and sustained engagement with community stakeholders and define the role of law enforcement accordingly.
The Institute of the Black World 21st Century’s Police Justice and Accountability Task Force has relationships with organizations and leaders in DC that are capable and willing to be helpful. We are also connected to experts working on new paradigms of public safety and law enforcement across the country. We stand willing to serve. Calling out the National Guard is not the answer!
For further information or to arrange interviews with Ronald E. Hampton, contact Don Rojas at