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City on a Hill: So long Solberg!
Commander Andrew Solberg recently left his post as the leader of the Metropolitan Police Department’s Second District, which includes Georgetown. Hopefully his replacement, Commander Mark Carter, will change MPD’s attitude toward Georgetown students.
Unlike most areas of the city, the Second District is largely free from violent crime. Solberg said that since there is less serious crime in his jurisdiction, officers have more time to follow-up on minor complaints.
“The community was very supportive and they demanded the best,” Solberg said. “The more the community demands of the police, the better they’ll get.”
But in such a peaceful area, it often seems that community members make demands just for the sake of being demanding. Without a legitimate crime problem to address, these residents need something to complain about—and Georgetown students, who are often noisy and boisterous, fit the bill nicely.
Residents should have expected to hear some noise on weekend nights when they decided to live near a university. Furthermore, if neighbors have complaints about an overly-rambunctious student party, they should talk to the party’s hosts and use the Student Neighborhood Action Plan hotline before complaining to MPD.
It’s important for the community to feel involved, and Solberg did a good job of encouraging community input, but he did so at the expense of respecting students.
At the beginning of the year, Solberg sent an e-mail to Director of Student Affairs Charles Vansant saying the MPD “will be making arrests for ANY violation of the law. I am not going to go through this again this year, with GU students disrupting the peace of the community in which they live.”
He also instituted a series of periodic “party patrols” during which MPD drastically increased its presence around campus, created a list of “problem houses,” and began making arrests instead of issuing citations for minor offenses, like open container violations. Solberg said students who disagreed with the policies could “come and talk to me when they get locked up.”
Jenna Lowenstein (COL ’09), a member of the Student Safety Advisory Board and Georgetown’s representative on the Advisory Neighborhood Committee, praised Solberg but admitted he didn’t have the best reputation on campus.
“While he faced some criticism on campus in the past for being a figure of alcohol-related enforcement, his first priority was always improving public safety for everyone in Georgetown, students included,” Lowenstein wrote in an e-mail.
Lowenstein may be right, but if Commander Solberg was in fact concerned about the safety of Georgetown students, he had a strange way of showing it. He seemed to regard students collectively as criminals rather than members of the community.
Solberg’s policies and attitude created an antagonistic relationship between MPD and Georgetown students, and that’s a pity. MPD does a lot of good, cooperative work with DPS and Solberg described DPS officers as “absolutely outstanding.” Perhaps under Commander Carter that level of respect will extend to Georgetown students.