Washington DC — A two-hour block normally reserved from some of today’s popular hip hop and R&B songs on WPGC 95.5 FM paused to help bring police and the DMV community together in the wake of several shootings nationwide that have brought anger and anxiety.
DJs Tony Redz and DJ Flexx were inspired to open up the radio lines for community discussion about police by the deaths of Alton Sterling and Philando Castile. While their deaths by police officers are less than two weeks old, Flexx said the fear they remind most of his listeners of is real.
“I can say for myself being a black man scared to get pulled over— it’s real,” said Flexx. “I've lived here my whole life and I rarely go to Virginia because of the fear of just getting pulled over and having to deal with the uncomfortable feeling of how you get treated by officers.”
Flexx and others at the radio station say as odd as it may seem to some in the community being as cooperative as possible with police will go a long way to defusing tempers.
“We need to learn how to deescalate the situation so you can make it home at the end of the day,” said Tony Redz, a DJ who helped lead the discussion. “It's not to say you're a punk or you're scared just deescalate the situation.”
Redz suggested turning off your car and rolling down your windows after being pulled over. Keeping your hands on the wheel and following directions can keep a stop from getting confrontational.
But even though Redz encourages the public to conform he said part of the problem is police officers who are angry when they confront people.
Prince George’s County Police Chief Hank Stawinski also urged the public to be respectful and get the same in return. He said any disagreements you have over being pulled over should be taken up in court and not with an officer.
Stawinski said if a second officer is called for its only to protect the first officer and not meant to intimidate the person being stopped.
“It's to allow that first officer to properly assess and places charges of necessary and to provide a warning, if that's appropriate, while that second officer is maintaining the safety of the first officer,” said Stawinski.
Mayor Muriel Bowser said part of finding common ground is better integrating the DC Metro Police Department.
She discussed how initiatives have been launched to try and allow more college age men and women to get law enforcement training paid for through the city and launching a high school program through Anacostia High School.
She also believes cleaning up the laws and eliminating minor infractions from the books can help the public feel like they’re not getting pulled over for no reason.
“We are going to roll back nuisance fines that also eliminate potentially negative interaction with the officer,” said Bowser.
The radio station that spearheaded the discussion also included activists, counselors and lawyers into the program.