Dear Metro Police,
One hour ago, just after 5 p.m. while it was still daylight, a man exposed himself to me as I was crossing the P Street bridge on foot, heading east from Georgetown into Dupont Circle. He was wearing a blue jacket and masturbating and looking straight at me.
I tried to start crossing the bridge as quickly as I could, in hopes of seeing a police car, and about halfway down saw two women walking in the opposite direction. I stopped them and told them not to walk on that side of the bridge (north side) by the man at the end. I explained he had just exposed himself to me. At that point the man looked back and while I was talking to the women and a man who had been walking close behind them, hopped on a bicycle, and went in the direction of Rose Park. I tried not to look at him, but I do remember he was caucasian, likely in his 40s or early 50s and of medium height.
I did not see a police car, so went to your website to file an online complaint from a nearby coffee shop. The online complaint form does not accommodate situations like this, seeming to focus instead on property violations. Then, I followed the instruction to call the non-emergency line to file a report. When I did they told me I would have to call 911, even though I explained there was no emergency and I was alright. When I called 911 and explained the incident I was told the police couldn’t do anything about it and wouldn’t file a report, I had to call while I was still there (and so was he).
Based on what I have just experienced, I am requesting you consider the following and revisit your processes:
What woman walking alone would stay near a man who has exposed himself to her and is masturbating? Among other issues, it seems like common sense safety to immediately leave.
Why does an exposer need to be onsite for the police to do anything, include file a report? This sends a message that it’s an open season for street harassment. I’m truly surprised the person I spoke with on the phone didn’t want to take the information I listed above.
Why does your online complaint form not accomodate non-emergency harassment complaints? This is a barrier to reporting. Harassment is often shrouded in embarrassment, disgust, shame – I would think the Internet could help you fight this crime.
Why does your non-emergency line tell callers to dial 911 for non-emergency police reports? This is another barrier to reporting. While I’m angry this incident occurred at all, I’m okay and I felt uncertain whether to go through with dialing 911 for a non-emergency situation.
What are you going to do to better address street harassment in the District of Columbia? How are you going to revise your policies and then make sure word gets out so people know them? It is hard to see how the current policy could be considered intuitive to those of us who are just trying to walk from point A to point B.
I am several months pregnant and most upsetting to me is knowing that this same thing could happen to my future daughter while out for a walk or riding her bike, and the person on the other end of the line might tell her the same thing – the police won’t take a report and “we can’t do anything about it.”
If there is any way that I can be of assistance to you in making the streets safer for women in the District of Columbia, I will be happy to assist.