- The Washington Times - Sunday, March 24, 2002

Parents and volunteers at a Metropolitan Police Boys and Girls Club in Southeast were surprised to learn this week that the clubhouse's popular leader had been unexpectedly relieved of his duties.
Some suspect that the removal of Officer Ronald Williams from Clubhouse 11, just off Martin Luther King Jr. Avenue in Congress Heights, was due to the man's devotion to Christianity a suspicion dismissed by the club's administrators and authorities at the 7th District Police Station.
"We don't have a problem with [Officer Williams] personal Christianity," said Joy Hill, a spokeswoman for the club's new administrators. She said one problem at Clubhouse 11 was that Officer Williams' wife, Ellen, had been in charge of the club's karate program and was reporting directly to her husband.
"That was innappropriate," Miss Hill said. "In our program, we have certain guildlines. … Nobody in this organization works for a relative."
Parents are having a hard time accepting Officer Williams' departure.
"This is a shock," said Monica Reed, who lives nearby and has two children at the club. "He's a role model, like a father to the kids."
"If you could have seen him interact with the children here, it was just awesome," added Velerie Coe, another parent at the club. "They really respect him. They gravitate to him."
Officer Williams was the top mentor for thousands of young men and women during his 15 years at the club. Just last month, he was named a "Hometown Hero" by WETA public television.
But in the weeks that followed, Officer Williams, who founded the club's award-winning karate program with his wife, was told by his police commander that his services were no longer needed at the Boys and Girls Club.
"I just heard the news that he was escorted out of here," said Lawan Coleman, adding that Officer Williams has been like a hero to her 8-year-old son, Jamal.
"Whatever is going on, it's very unfair," Miss Coleman said. "By taking him out of here, they're making a really hurting situation for the children."
Ronald Gray, a volunteer at Clubhouse 11, says new administrators at the Boys and Girls Club's Washington headquarters got rid of Officer Williams because "they think he pushes his Christianity too aggressively on the children."
Officer Williams has declined to comment, as has Mrs. Williams a minister at a nearby Baptist church in Southeast.
Mr. Gray, who has been suspended from his own duties by the club's new administrators, said, "They think Officer Williams is too much of a Christian. … They're going overboard."
The new admninstrators Alta Cannaday, executive vice president, and Shonda Sheppard, program manager and director of community resources took over the Metropolitan Police Boys and Girl's Clubs in January.
Miss Cannaday did not return repeated phone calls. Miss Sheppard's only comment on the issue was: "When and where an officer is assigned or reassigned has nothing to do with us."
Mrs. Hill said, "When a new administration comes in, you have to put new rules in place, and sometimes people don't like that."
Seventh District Police Cmdr. William Robinson said that Officer Williams has been re-assigned to work as a school resource officer at Choice Academy, an alternative school for troubled youth in Southeast.
"We feel he'll be great fit at that school," Cmdr. Robinson said. "We received no pressures from anyone to make this move. We've simply got another need to fill that's very demanding, and Officer Williams is the best person for the job."
Still, Mr. Gray insists that the administrators and police authorities sought to oust Officer Williams and put an end to the karate program because of its "spiritual" component.
"We pray in the karate class. But it's just a spiritual overtone," said Miss Coe, whose children participated in the program. "There are different children of different religions. I know there is also a separate Bible study, but the children don't have to go to that if they don't want to."
Mr. Gray insists that the "spiritual overtone" is what Miss Sheppard and Miss Cannaday found unacceptable about Officer Williams and the karate program.
"They were hired to clean up the club, and bring fiscal management and structure," he said. "But they ended up getting rid of the best supervisor the club ever had, and they never had any conversations with any parents involved or anything."


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