The Metropolitan Police Department (MPD) and Howard University (HU) announce a joint community engagement effort designed to improve communication and trust between MPD and the community through a series of listening sessions. Recognizing the importance of community engagement and building and maintaining positive police-community relationships, this partnership will expand upon the existing partnership with Howard University’s Policing Inside Out (PIO) program. MPD, Howard University and the PIO program will host a robust series of community engagement webinars via listening sessions throughout each of the eight wards of D.C. The first session will be held on Wednesday April 21, 2021 from 7 pm – 8:30 pm. Members of the public can register for the event here: bit.ly/MPDandHUzoom.
Founding Director Bahiyyah M. Muhammad, Ph.D., associate professor of criminology in the Department of Sociology and Criminology in the College of Arts and Sciences, has led this innovative program since 2015. The traditional program encompasses a semester-long academic course, meeting once a week, through which 10 to 15 “community” students and the same number of “police” students attend class together and discuss contemporary policing and social justice issues, work towards facilitating citizen-police dialogue to improve trust, tackle difficult issues such as use of force, stop and frisk policy and enhance cross-cultural knowledge of human diversity.
Over the years, PIO has included MPD officers and has allowed for robust discussion between law enforcement, students, and the community – helping break barriers and build collaboration between all parties. Through PIO, real dialogue has led to real change for MPD, whose officers and community members were among the first cohort to participate in a required course excursion to the African Museum of African American History and Culture (NMAAHC). Today, MPD requires all cadets to participate in a similar training session that includes a visit to NMAAHC. This is evidence of the importance of this partnership in working together to bring true transformation to the Black community and police relations movement in the nation’s capital and around the world.
These listening sessions will be curated by The Dr. Muhammad Experience Inc., and facilitated by PIO trained instructors, HU students and PIO program alumni who will facilitate discussions among community stakeholders and MPD. In addition, HU will assist MPD in recruiting a diverse array of voices for each session, ensuring MPD hears perspectives from members of the community who may not regularly interact with law enforcement. These sessions will work to center critical perspectives and allow for all voices to be heard and understood.
“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,” stated MPD Chief of Police Robert J. Contee, III. “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.”
“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. “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.”
“In the name of truth and service, Policing Inside Out facilitates an experiential learning opportunity that serves as an incubator for breeding the next generation of humanistic social science engineers, who will continue the intellectual fight for social justice in every classroom, police department and community, regardless of the political climate and pandemic of the times,” said Founding PIO Program Director Bahiyyah Muhammad, Ph.D.
Additionally, through this partnership, MPD will host workshops and sponsor internships and/or employment opportunities for eligible HU students. This partnership will build a long-term relationship between MPD and HU through the Department of Sociology and Criminology in the College of Arts and Sciences, therefore giving students a voice in public safety and helping MPD develop strong evidence-based practices.