The U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of Columbia (USAODC) has long believed that a problem-solving approach to law enforcement is essential for reducing crime, enhancing public safety, and improving the quality of life in the District of Columbia. In 1995, the Office implemented the Community Prosecution Initiative, which involves not only prosecuting criminals and litigating cases, but connecting with stakeholders to understand the needs and gaps in services within our local communities. This community-based strategy enables community prosecutors and community outreach specialists to work directly with residents, local businesses, nonprofit organizations, and other community stakeholders to develop a comprehensive approach to fighting crime and protecting the rights and interests of city residents. Our present strategy focuses on: building bonds of trust between the Office and the community, enhancing public safety through education, and increasing community participation in the criminal justice system. This strategy is implemented through community outreach programs, youth engagement and reentry initiatives.
Clergy Ambassador Program
The mission of the Clergy Ambassador Program (CAP) is to formalize a working relationship between our Office, Washington, D.C. clergy and community leaders. Our goal is to form a partnership that will promote trust and mutual respect between law enforcement and the community, and to improve the quality of life of all residents by reducing crime and enhancing public safety.
The CAP is open to all faith-based and community leaders. Each respective leader was encouraged to invite other members from within their organization; but the respective leader of each organization was expected to have involvement in the program. After registration, participants attended an initial training, followed by six bi-monthly meetings, where area scholars and practitioners made presentations to the clergy ambassadors about various topics geared towards fostering dialogue between the community, clergy and law enforcement. The presentations included: getting involved in policymaking; trauma-based care; effective faith-based re-entry programs; assessing clergy privilege under the law; understanding the workings of the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA); and a brainstorming forum with the Metropolitan Police Department Commanders.
In addition, given the most recent incidents and tension between some communities and law enforcement, CAP and several community organizations sponsored a forum entitled, “Clergy Against All Killing: All Lives Matter”. The goals of the forum was to have a fruitful conversation about violence and the various ways in which violence manifests itself in our community; how to strengthen our community by deterring violence; how to foster a better relationship between the community and the police; and how clergy can play a vital role in healing while bridging divides and resolving conflicts. Recognizing that the “Clergy Against All Killing” forum itself would be insufficient to address violence in our community, monthly community and police partnership programs were scheduled as a follow-up to the forum. To date, there are over forty participants from a variety of faith-based communities in CAP.
Our Office has developed two important but distinctly different senior seminars; “Financial Crimes Against Seniors” and “Elder Abuse and Exploitation of the Elderly.” We routinely conduct these presentations in senior dwellings and at senior programs throughout the city.
The “Financial Crimes Against Seniors” seminar is presented in partnership with the D.C. Department of Insurance, Securities and Banking and the D.C. Office of the Inspector General. These presentations are designed to educate and increase awareness of financial scams, such as advance fee loan scams, telephone scams, home lending and foreclosure rescue scams and how-to-get-rich-fast scams. We have also expanded this financial scam awareness programming to enlisted members of our military who are frequently victims of various financial scams.
The “Elder Abuse and Exploitation of the Elderly and Vulnerable Adults” seminar is designed to empower seniors and vulnerable adults to recognize, prevent, and report physical, psychological and financial abuse and neglect. The USAODC’s Victim Witness Assistance Unit and Community Prosecution sections conduct this presentation. Participants are provided with resources as to where they can find help in the event they become victims of abuse.
Domestic Violence Presentation
Domestic Violence seminars are designed to reach out to community members in order to educate them about the signs of domestic abuse. The Office also encourages citizens to report domestic violence while providing information about the various resources that the Office and other local agencies provide to domestic violence victims. We have had domestic violence presentations specifically tailored for teens, women, men, senior citizens, and reentrants.
Child Abuse Awareness and Infant Fatality Prevention
The Office has developed a presentation that addresses child abuse awareness and infant fatality prevention. The presentation was developed to address the protection of the youngest members of society from trauma, accidents and death. The topics covered in the presentation are infant trauma and bed-sharing rollover deaths while under the influence of drugs or alcohol. Smart and safe choices in caregiving and creating safe sleep environments are emphasized during the presentations.
Hate-Bias Task Force
The Office makes consistent efforts to reach the various diverse affinity groups living in the District. These efforts are facilitated through our Hate-Bias Task Force. The Hate-Bias Task Force is a collaboration of agency and community partners in the District who focus on addressing the needs of the various affinity groups in the city and combating hate-bias crimes. In addition, the Task Force, in an effort to educate the community about the criminal justice system and to develop bonds of trust between these communities and law enforcement, has conducted various outreach programs. For instance, in celebration of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s birthday, USAODC and fellow government, community, and academic partners hosted a cross-cultural symposium entitled, “The Diversity We Share Symposium”. During this Symposium participants were educated on: what constituted a hate crime both on the local and federal level; the impact of hate crimes on various affinity groups; and law enforcement strategies to combat hate crimes. Other Symposium topics included: transgender cultural sensitivity; wage theft which heavily impacted the immigrant community; visas for non-immigrant witnesses; and the impact of domestic violence in various affinity groups.
Finally, in partnership with the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children, and Metropolitan Police Department, USAODC hosted a Child Identification-Halloween Safety Event at D.C. General Hospital Family Homeless Shelter. During this event, children were able to enjoy a traditional Halloween party while their parents were educated on what to do in the event that their child went missing. Parents also had the opportunity to obtain an identification card for their child. This identification contained crucial information which would assist law enforcement in the event that their child was missing.
Muslim and Immigrant Outreach
Our Office has also made a concerted effort to build relationships with the Muslim Community. During the past few years, we have provided fraud and senior abuse training at a local mosque for their senior ministries; have attended various Iftars and other events; and have representation from the Muslim community in our Clergy Ambassador Program. Moreover, we just recently partnered with a local mosque on a program entitled, “Heal the Hurt, Heal the Heart” which focused on victimization and how the community can help victims through the healing process.
Know your Rights Forums
During the past several months, USAODC has hosted numerous police-community forums which were designed to improve the community’s relationship with local police. During these forums, USAODC emphasized the importance of: getting to know your local police command staff by attending community meetings; calmly asserting your rights during police encounters; and how to make formal complaints against any officer who has violated your rights. We generally conducted these forums in conjunction with the D.C. Metropolitan Police Department. During these forums, attendees were able to ask questions and expressed their concerns about police conduct. We have presented this program to well over 400 adults and children.
The Court Report is a monthly newsletter that USAODC created for the community in each police district. The report contains a synopsis of significant cases where the defendant has been indicted, pled or sentenced for a crime that occurred in their district. The Court Report also provides a list of adult arrests papered by our Office during the previous month. This report is disseminated to the community via email and at community meetings. Community prosecutors and community outreach specialists encourage the community to review the report to see if any offenses occurred in their neighborhoods, and then assist the community in writing community impact statements to be presented to the court at the time of sentencing.
Community Meetings and Events
USAODC’s leadership team, community prosecutors and community outreach specialists attend numerous community meetings and events throughout the District each month. During these meetings, in an effort to improve transparency in the criminal justice system, community prosecutors and outreach specialists educate the community about our Office and the inner workings of the criminal justice system.
II. Youth Engagement Programs
In an effort to foster positive decision-making and to deter youth from criminal behavior, USAODC has implemented various youth engagement programs. It is the goal of our Office to expose youth to the inner workings of the criminal justice system and discourage them from engaging in drugs, gangs and gun violence. We hope to accomplish this through a variety of programs and events that have been specifically developed for this target audience.
East of the River Youth Court Club
In partnership with the Friendship Collegiate Public Charter School, Georgetown University Law School and the Metropolitan Police Department, the East of the River Youth Court Club (ERYCC) was created. The East of the River Youth Court meets twice a month at the Friendship Collegiate Public Charter High School in northeast Washington, D.C. ERYCC serves as a high school student driven tribunal which decides disciplinary cases of other high school students that are referred to the tribunal by teachers and the principal. High school students serve as the judge, defense attorneys, prosecutors and jury.
Youth Motivation Program
USAODC Youth Motivation Program is designed to expose at-risk youth to the inner workings of the criminal justice system, and to discourage them from engaging in gang and gun violence. The program includes a visit to the courthouse where the students: watch a court hearing; meet with a judge for a question and answer session; and hear a presentation by a homicide detective or prosecutor. Our Office has hosted numerous Youth Motivation Programs involving students from middle schools and high schools.
For the past five years, USAODC along with Project Safe Neighborhoods Task Force agencies and numerous community based organizations, have hosted the “Breaking the Silence on Youth Violence Summit.” This anti-violence summit has attracted between 300 to 600 youth participants annually. These summits have focused on a variety of topics that impact our youth including: teen domestic violence and sexual assault prevention; the consequences of gun and gang violence; and drug prevention. During our Summits, youth participants have been challenged to accept their role in stopping youth violence by making better decisions and encouraging cooperation with law enforcement. The Summits have concluded with special appearances by hip-hop or step team performances which reinforced the positive non-violent themes of the summits. Additionally, the Summits have included a youth informational fair where non-profit organizations provided information on youth development programs, mentoring, and educational youth activities.
Project Legal Enrichment and Decision Making (Project L.E.A.D.)
Project L.E.A.D is an initiative that partners our attorneys and support staff with D.C. Public Schools to provide mentoring and an interactive curriculum to 5th graders. The program shapes good decision-making skills and teaches components such as conflict resolution, critical thinking and responsibility. The mentors meet with students twice a month for an hour to implement an interactive curriculum designed for student participation. Approximately twenty attorneys and support staff members from our Office participate as mentors in the program, and well over two hundred children participate in Project L.E.A.D.
Career Exploration in Law
The Career Exploration in Law Explorer’s Post started in 2012 at USAODC. The youth participants are ages 11 through 16. The focus of the Post is to provide participants with opportunities to learn about careers in law, law enforcement, and the military from special guest speakers, participation in events and field trips. The Post is also engaged in outreach to the community. The youth created their own tenets for being leaders: Leadership, Education, Advancement, Determination, Excellence, and Responsibility.
Internet Safety Presentations
Internet Safety presentations are designed to inform not only youth, but parents, educators, senior citizens and caregivers about the dangers and risks of the internet. Our presentations teach social etiquette to establish an awareness of all the dangers and scams lurking online. Internet safety presentations for youth are designed to create an atmosphere that encourages them to have a dialogue with trusted adults in their lives about their online behaviors. We talk to our audiences about sexual predators, cyber-bullying, sexting, online gaming and social networking. Additionally, they are taught the three rules of internet safety: 1) tell a trusted adult if anything makes you feel sad, scared or confused; 2) never give out your personal information without parental permission; and 3) never meet someone in person that you first met online.
Youth Mentoring Programs
In partnership with Capitol View Neighborhood Branch of the D.C. Public Library, USAODC hosts a mentoring group for boys twice a month. Some of the topics discussed during these meetings are internet safety, police-youth relationships and gun safety. Similarly, USAODC, in partnership with the Department of Youth Rehabilitation Services (DYRS), hosts a girls’ mentoring group at their secured detention facility. During these meetings, USAODC facilitators present information on a variety of topics including self-esteem, domestic violence, and alcohol and marijuana abuse. The objective of both of these mentoring groups is to encourage young people to make healthier choices, and illustrate what is acceptable behavior in today’s society.
III. REENTRY OUTREACH
USAODC has sought to be a leader in the Justice Department’s efforts to support the reentry of former offenders to the community following their incarceration. We recognize that returning citizens face serious obstacles to success, such as obtaining employment and housing, and that reducing recidivism requires community-wide collaboration. USAODC has partnered with federal and local agencies and community-based organizations to implement a District-wide reentry strategy. We have also focused our efforts on educating recently released individuals about the negative consequences of violating the terms of their supervision. At the same time, USAODC has hosted forums to educate business leaders and the community at-large about the importance of supporting citizens as they return from prison. We also hosted a job fair which resulted in several reentrants being hired by local businesses. By building support mechanisms for reentrants, we hope to reduce recidivism, enhance public safety, and help returning citizens begin to make positive contributions to our community.
IV. LAW ENFORCEMENT OUTREACH
In addition, Community Prosecutors, as they are housed in the seven police district stations, serve as the legal advisors to police officers on matters relating to criminal law. In that regard, they are responsible for developing legal training for officers on a variety of issues which are usually in direct response to our charging declinations, such as constructive possession and 4th Amendment issues. Finally, they also have responsibility for reviewing misdemeanor arrest warrants and narcotic search warrants for patrol and vice police officers, staffing weekend case intake, and debriefing defendants for possible development as cooperators. Finally, they also serve as liaisons between our Office and the Metropolitan Police Department.
Community Outreach Staff
Wendy Pohlhaus, Executive Assistant U.S. Attorney for External Affairs
Brenda Horner, Supervisory Community Outreach Specialist
Carolyn Crank, Community Outreach Specialist
Douglas Klein, Community Prosecutor
Baretta Francis, Community Outreach Specialist
Trena Carrington, Community Prosecutor
LaToya Davenport, Community Outreach Specialist
Roger Kemp, Community Prosecutor
Baretta Francis, Community Outreach Specialist
Trena Carrington, Community Prosecutor
Monica Veney, Community Outreach Specialist
Floyd Carson, Community Outreach Specialist
Leutrell Osborne, Community Prosecutor
Lenney Lowe, Community Outreach Specialist
Kamilah House, Community Prosecutor