D.C. POLICE COMMANDER SOLBERG’S APOLOGY UNNECESSARY
When Alan Senitt
was walking his lady friend home recently in a relatively safe neighborhood of Georgetown
in Washington, D. C., little did he know he would become another homicide statistic for the Metropolitan Police Department. His throat was slit, he was cut, and his
female friend was the victim of an attempted sexual assault. This incident augmented the concerns the police department and the community were facing after a recent spate of homicides that impacted the city.
Following this incident, Chief Ramsey declared a crime emergency allowing him to place more officers on the street for increased visibility and vigilance. The
Georgetown community was traumatized by this event, and the residents’ historical outlook of feeling safe and secure in their neighborhoods quickly transformed to a state of fear.
Commander Andy Solberg was in command of the 2nd district where the shocking homicide of Mr.
Senitt occurred. He immediately engaged in a concerted effort to meet with residents of the community affected by this violent act and addressed their concerns. He explained to them that such an
occurrence, though tragic, was unusual for that area. He urged residents to report suspicious individuals and activities in their neighborhoods. In relating this to his audience he commented, “I would think the at 2 am. on the streets of Georgetown, a group of three people—one of whom is a bald, chunky, fat guy—are going to stand out. They were black. This is not a racial thing to say that black people are unusual in Georgetown. This is a fact of life.”
Following this presentation, Chief Ramsey removed Commander Solberg
from the 2nd district and transferred him to the security division of the police department. Apparently Chief Ramsey believed Commander Solberg’s
verbiage was inappropriate, insensitive, and possibly offensive. Not long after this occurred, Cdr. Solberg issued a public apology. D.C. Mayor Anthony Williams commented he thought an apology was appropriate in this situation. Solberg
began his apology in this fashion: “Some comments I made at the meeting were insensitive and created other concerns within the community. I want to apologize for the comments that I made and hope that the community will forgive me….”
did nothing wrong. He merely stated the facts in a genuine manner and relayed the truth to the audience he was addressing. He was honest and forthright. Nothing he said was intended to be offensive nor was it, in fact, offensive. He simply told it as it was, or, as former
President William (Bill) Clinton would say, “What is, is.”
It is obvious that Solberg
quickly issued an apology at the likely obscure wink of the mayor, in accord with the nod of Chief Ramsey, to avoid significant public reaction or criticism that
would entail accusations of racism, racial profiling, and unfair judgments. After all, in a political town like D. C., one cannot afford to be politically incorrect.
To speak the truth and tell it like it is not a “given,” and when one has the guts to do so, that does not mean that consequences will not ensue. This is exactly what happened with Solberg. He has consequences for speaking the truth.
A 19-year veteran of the police force, highly respected by his peers in the department, and well liked by the residents
of the Georgetown community who have been pleased with his performance, Solberg now has to march to the beat of different drummers, and the drummers are conducting an investigation of his actions.
It was unnecessary for Solberg
to issue an apology of any kind whether he was urged to do so behind the scenes or whether he did so of his own volition. He said nothing that was insulting, demeaning, or offensive. Merely stating the facts openly and directly is not harmful. If the community wants to know what is going on, they need to hear the facts, and they need to hear them without the sugarcoating of political correctness. In the long run, the residents who are secondary victims of this heinous crime wanted to hear what Solberg had to say and, more importantly, they now want him back in their community where he belongs.
Copyright 2006 Karen L. Bune
***Karen L. Bune is a Victim Specialist in the State’s Attorney’s Office for Prince George’s County, Maryland. She is also an
Adjunct Professor in the Department of Criminal Justice at George Mason University where she teaches victimology.
Ms. Bune is a nationally recognized speaker and consultant on victim issues. She is Board Certified in Traumatic Stress and is a Diplomate and Fellow of the Academy of Experts in Traumatic Stress. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org
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