Reporting on pedestrian life in the D.C. area

Stitches for Dwight Harris, no federal charges for Metro Transit Police

October 24, 2011 - 10:17 AM
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(Photo: Facebook/Accountability for MTA Police)

In case you hadn't seen last week, the Metro Transit Police officers who pushed the wheelchair-bound newspaper vendor Dwight Harris to the ground last May received no civil rights charges from the U.S. Department of Justice. Video of the incident spread all across the Internet and provided little comfort about the tenderness of Metro Transit Police. Amalgamated Local 689 received some of their first and most troubled questions about the incident in late June when they held their first public town hall. A Facebook group emerged demanding accountability and "Justice for Dwight Harris," which accumulated a couple hundred followers. The encounter between Harris and the MTPD reportedly involved malt liquor and resulted in being slammed down onto sidewalk grate near the U Street Metro station. 

Here's the video that caused so much concern:

Even Gawker noticed the news that these officers would not be charged over the weekend. Here's their unhappy reaction:

While the feds conducted their investigation, the cops were placed on administrative duty with pay. Now that they're off the hook, they'll be put back on the street. To serve and protect! To throw and to slam! Disabled D.C. residents should probably move to Takoma Park.

Is this what we want our transit police known for in national media? It's a shame. The Department of Justice investigation, according it an official statement, consisted of "reviewing all of the evidence, including training records, video evidence and medical reports, as well as independently conducting extensive witness interviews."

And what's unfortunate (depending on how you look at it) is the timing — WMATA is holding three town halls to discuss the treatment of the D.C. metro region's people with disabilities this week, starting tonight at the Jackson Graham Building. The big issue here is MV, the contractor who provides the MetroAccess paratransit service for about two and a half million people in the region. The first town hall begins tonight at 6:30 p.m. at Metro's Jackson Graham headquarters in Chinatown. See more details here. MV Transportation's contract with WMATA runs through June of 2013, and as you might recall, MV has inspired some serious anger this year among MetroAccess drivers. Can the news about how Dwight Harris was handled — and how his handling was handled — really help anything? Even if the Department of Justice acted correctly, the perception here is that Transit Police are more brutal than they should be and are officially permitted to act that way.

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