The Metropolitan Police Department’s Vibrant Digital Presence

In contrast to the actual building itself, which is a boring, unremarkable box in the heart of Judiciary square, the website of the Metropolitan Police Department is a vibrant, expansive, and useful tool to help the people of the District of Columbia. The website — which is an offshoot of the greater dc.gov website, has countless links that send the user deeper into the Metropolitan Police Department website. These links all lead to useful information regarding what police precinct you live in, how to access the Metropolitan Police Department’s many services (permits, registration, filing of police reports, etc.), safety information, and so much more.report

Something that is worth mentioning is that mpdc.dc.gov (the police website) is one small part of the puzzle that is the District’s government site. While dc.gov has a very similar structure, the information on it is far more expansive than the Police Deparmtnent’s site. It has links to job opportunities, school profiles, and visitors information just to name a few. This information is valuable to both residents and tourists alike. Parents can find information on the best schools for their children under the “School Profiles” link on the “Education” tab. Residents or people planning to move to the city can explore job opportunities in the government sector under the “Jobs” tab, or get instructions on how to start a business in DC under the “Business” tab. Additionally, tourists can find the site useful as well. There are links to tours, information on monuments, things to do in the city, and many more options for tourists under the “Visitors” tab.precincts

The MPDC website has been an invaluable tool to me throughout the duration of this project. It is structurally identical to the dc.gov site, but the links and tabs are a little more focused on information that would concern the police department. The uniformity of the site reflects order, which is a message that police have historically tried to send. Most of the information is organized into eight neat and distinct tabs: “Home,” “Services,” “Your Police District,” “In the Community,” “Safety and Prevention,” “Statistics & Data,” “Get Involved!,” and “About MPDC.” The acronym “MPDC” is used regularly throughout the site, probably because typing out “Metropolitan Police Department of the District of Columbia” gets old after a while. The “Get Involved!” tab interested be because of the exclamation point on the end. Some of the links under the tab include career opportunities, volunteer opportunities, and ways to contact the police through text and tip lines.

The Department definitely wants to build relations to the DC community. This can benefit the Department in a number of ways: if the people of the District trust the police enough to give them tips on crime in the area, that makes their job infinitely easier. Additionally, including links to jobs in the Department increases the MPDC workforce, theoretically making them more effective in the city. Another benefit to having the site cover so much ground is to reduce questions asked by residents. If the information is easily accessible on the site, then there is no reason to waste time with an email or phone call. Another way I can see the Department trying to connect with the community is through social media. They have links to MPDC’s Twitter and Facebook accounts. This is a way residents can see what is happening in the city with the Police Department without having to subscribe to the email list (which is also an option.

While the outward appearance of the Metropolitan Police Department seems dilapidated and neglectful, the website reflects a different side of the story. The website provides a feeling of safety; like the police are making an effort to make everyone feel safe, and no where to find what help they need. Getting to know the District Commander and any information regarding the safety of your family might be enough to feel safe and welcome in the city. The Department would seem far more impressive if their outward appearance reflected their site.mpdci

The Interior of the Metropolitan Police HQ: A Lonely Home for the District’s Men in Blue

As I made my way back to the Metropolitan Police Department for my second trip, I took the opposite route from last time. Previously, I took a left from the Judiciary Square Metro then took a left down fifth street and walked two blocks until I took another left down Indiana Avenue. This time I inverted my previous actions, taking a right from the Metro, walked down 4th street, then took a right to find myself in front of the Metropolitan Police HQ. While there were similarities between the two, taking a walk from only two streets over made a noticeable difference.

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When I made my way down 6th Street NW, I noticed a considerable number of people in suits in addition to the regularly dressed people seen around the entire city. Federal buildings were still visible from 6th of course, but there were noticeably more street vendors and traditional urban buildings and businesses around like coffee shops, bars, and restaurants; they are presumably there for the federal employees during their lunch breaks and after they get off of work.cg

During my trip down 4th Street I was walking through the heart of Judiciary Square. With the D.C. Federal Court on my right and Washington D.C.’s Veterans Affairs building on my left, I found myself once again looking at the front of the Metropolitan Police HQ.

As I entered, I was immediately met with a wall of barriers in the form of desks, stanchions, and metal detectors, somewhat reminding me of the security guarding the entrances to the Smithsonians. These security measures are presumably in place to prevent another major attack on the building like the one that took place in 1994, claiming the lives of two FBI agents and an MPDC detective. While comparable to the Smithsonian’s with the immediate impression of security, the atrium of the Metropolitan Police HQ was dark, lonely, and unimpressive. There were only two guards present when I walked in, once behind the desk, the other leaning on the desk talking to him. The lack of a significant security presence in the form of guards was surprising, but considering I was the only person in the atrium besides the guards, additional security is probably never necessary. Both guards turned to me, looking annoyed that I interrupted their conversation. Emptying my pockets, I put my belongings on the conveyor belt next to the detector like I would at an airport security checkpoint, and walked through the overhead detector for the inevitable beeping telling the guard my watch and belt were still on. After the guard reluctantly searched me, he asked me what I needed at the HQ. I told him I was  working on a project for my writing class at American University, but he kept insisting I needed to be more specific. Unfortunately, I couldn’t be more specific than “I need to look around for a class project.” He was reasonably suspicious, so he limited my access to the first floor and the second floor atrium where we currently were.

I gathered what little I could from the atrium, with the two long hallways leading off in either direction that were off limits to me, and the bathrooms on either side of the elevators behind the security checkpoint. I took the elevator down to the first floor, and found myself to be equally disappointed. The hallways were virtually empty. I made my way through the vacant halls looking into vacant hearing rooms and locked utility closets. I assume they were placed on the bottom floor which has less security because it is easily accessible by citizens who would need to get to the hearing rooms. The only thing worth mention was the courtyard that was in the center of the building where the door was also locked and also empty. My journey inside the MPDC HQ was disappointing. However, I did learn a bit about the value they place on their security presence.

An External Description of The Metropolitan Police Department HQ

     Today, the District of Columbia’s Metropolitan Police Headquarters is located at 300 Indiana Avenue Northwest; on the same city block as The Newseum and about a block away from the Judiciary Square Metro stop. Its close proximity to a Metro stop, the National Mall, and Pennsylvania Avenue NW (Where the Capital Building resides,) helps explain some of the importance of the building historically. As I was leaving the Metro stop, I found myself looking at the National Building Museum, and as I made my way toward the HQ itself, I passed many well-dressed people, further reinforcing the implication of the hum drum normalcy and even affluence in the area.

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     The Metropolitan Police have been around for more than 150 years. Starting in 1790, when Maryland and Virginia both ceded land for the nation’s capital, or the “Federal City,” as it was called, it was policed by the two states in their own respective precincts for about ten years. The district initially had 10 police precincts, as opposed to the updated 7 which are located 101 M street SW, 3320 Idaho Ave NW, 1620 V Street NW, 6001 Georgia Ave. NW, 1805 Bladensburg Road NE, 5002 Hayes Street NE, and 2455 Alabama Ave SE respectively, the capital residing in District 1. On September 20, 1803, the Mayor of the District appointed the first superintendent of police, with the constables receiving regular salaries March 11, 1851. The Metropolitan Police force was officially recognized under the Presidency of Abraham Lincoln as a result of the Civil War, when the Confederates were amassing forces across the Potomac and it was suspected that Confederate sympathizers were in the capital.history

     One of the most interesting things I found about the building was the building’s name itself. It was named after Henry H. Daly, the officer killed in the shooting that took place November 22, 1994 at the HQ, killing FBI Special Agents Martha Dixon-Martinez, Michael John Miller, and Metropolitan PD officer Henry Daly himself, as referenced in Ruben Castaneda’s S Street Rising. An observation I made looking at the entrance was the presence of large cinder block barriers in the street leading up to the entrance, and a number of short concrete poles closer to the entrance. I’m assuming those are in place to try and prevent a vehicular attack on the building probably built as a follow up to the ‘94 attack or a post 9/11 precaution. This is only a theory, but the Metropolitan Police HQ is the only building I’ve seen with that magnitude of fortification near the entrance. Also notable was the building’s plain appearance. It looked just like the rest of the buildings on the street: flat, tannish stone structures. Parking was available at the very front of the building by the sidewalk. Two statues of eagles stood on either side of the entrance near the concrete barriers. 

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     The combination of the building’s proximity to Pennsylvania Avenue NW and it’s likeness to the rest of the buildings on the block illustrates its importance without allowing any sort of extravagance unafforded to the rest of the buildings. The building’s history is present even in the name.