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‘We can’t coddle violent criminals!’ DC police chief shreds media & ‘dysfunctional’ justice system after upscale district shooting

‘We can’t coddle violent criminals!’ DC police chief shreds media & ‘dysfunctional’ justice system after upscale district shooting
Washington, DC’s police chief took both the justice system and the media to task after another shooting in broad daylight this week, saying local courts are allowing violent criminals to run free as the press turns a blind eye.

Briefing reporters on a brazen daytime shooting in an upscale DC district the day prior, Metropolitan Police chief Robert Contee decried the “unacceptable” wave of violence gripping some of the city’s neighborhoods, arguing that a dysfunctional court system was failing to keep dangerous offenders off the streets.

“We could take the political route and talk about all of this fluffy stuff, but I’m going to give it to you straight, where the issues are,” he said at the press conference on Friday.

The justice system we have right now – it’s not functioning the way that it should. The courts are not open. That is a fact.

Two men were injured in Thursday’s incident, which saw more than 10 shots ring out on DC’s 14th Street. Police said the victims were “conscious and breathing” soon after the incident, though they offered few other details about their condition. Law enforcement also released footage of the suspected shooter and one accomplice, who fled the scene in a dark, four-door car, asking the public to help identify them. They remain at large.

Contee fumed that Thursday’s shooting only garnered media attention due to its location near the high-end Le Diplomate restaurant, suggesting the press often ignores violence in other neighborhoods. He pointed to the 922 shootings and 198 homicides tallied in DC in 2020, a 16-year high, saying such violence “should be shocking to the conscience of every person in our city” and has “been happening for a long time.”

“This is what the response should look like. It should look like this,” he said, gesturing toward the crowd of reporters around him. “Because there are a lot of corners I go to after a murder has occurred, and it’s just me, it’s just the officers.”

When you hear the gunshots in your community, that begs a different reaction.

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Contee added that a large backlog of cases involving violent criminals from 2020 had “not been disposed of” due to delays caused by Covid-19, asking, “Where do you think those individuals are? Anybody want to take a guess? They’re in the community.”

“Why is it that a guy who murdered somebody is out in the community after having been arrested two or three months prior with a firearm? What did we think he was going to do?” he went on, apparently referring to another case. “We want to help people, yes we should, but you cannot coddle violent criminals.”

Courts in the city have put jury trials on pause for much of the health crisis, with the DC Superior Court halting them for a full year, resuming only in late March. In the meantime, the police have continued to make arrests, but if prosecutors brought charges, suspects were often released under some level of supervision as their cases crawled through the system. The delays have resulted in a backlog of “hundreds” of cases, according to the Washington Post.  

The flipside to the judicial gridlock, however, is that some defendants have languished in custody well beyond their ultimate sentences as they awaited trial. Meanwhile, as of Wednesday, the nation’s capital had recorded 105 homicides so far in 2021, keeping pace with last year’s decade-and-a-half high.

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