- The Washington Times - Wednesday, July 12, 2006

Cmdr. Andy Solberg has been reassigned to the Metropolitan Police Department’s Office of Security after urging the well-to-do of Georgetown to exercise common sense if they spot three black youths loitering in the neighborhood at 2 o’clock in the morning.

He made the observation after the fatal throat-slashing of a British citizen in the 3100 block of Q street in Georgetown early Sunday, when the victim and a female companion were attacked and robbed by three black youths.

There is something disingenuous about those who question the racial sensitivity of Cmdr. Solberg, who at a meeting at Christ Church said, “I would think that at 2 o’clock in the morning on the streets of Georgetown, a group of three people, one of whom is 15 years old, 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.” He merely was speaking in the context of a heinous crime committed by three black youths. He might have used the example of three white skinheads if the perpetrators had been white skinheads.

The disingenuous element of those left queasy by Cmdr. Solberg’s suggestion is that many undoubtedly already practice what the officer was preaching. They never would say it aloud out of fear of being viewed as unenlightened. They never would concede how they make a zillion prejudicial conclusions in their lives, starting with where they choose to live.

They live in Georgetown, the best address in the city that confers a certain status on the residents. They don’t live in Tenleytown or Shaw or Brookland or Hillcrest. They live among those most like them in Georgetown, which is fine.

There is an element of racial politics in this horrific matter, all right. People are killed all the time in this city, although often east of the Anacostia River. There is a kind of sad acceptance to it there, which is why those killings sometimes are granted no more than a few paragraphs in the newspaper. Those slayings are often seen as almost “routine.” But a slaying in Georgetown, an enclave of predominantly wealthy whites? Sound the alarm. Call the local press. Hold a special neighborhood meeting. Activate the Association of Georgetown Citizens. Declare a citywide crime emergency. Send out more cops on bikes to patrol the arteries of Georgetown.

And pass the smelling salts after Cmdr. Solberg, in so many words, says, “Hey, people, I know you feel insulated here from the mean streets of the city. But wake up. Look around you. Don’t allow your fancy address and political ideology to strip you of your self-preservation instincts.”

Is it fair to be suspicious of three black youths who are returning to their parked automobile at 2 o’clock in the morning after a night of partying along Wisconsin Avenue or M Street? No, it is not fair. Is it fair that Fortune 500 companies probably are going to look in another direction if your body is adorned with tattoos? No, it is not fair. Is it fair that white women clutch their purses with emphasis around a fortysomething black friend of mine? No, it is not fair. Is it fair that the tall and pretty have an employment edge over the short and fat, even if their credentials are the same? No, it is not fair.

Then again, life is not fair, and no amount of thought and speech policing is going to change that.

It is not fair that a killing in Georgetown prompts swift action in a way that 10 killings in Southeast never could. It is not fair that Cmdr. Solberg, in attempting to respond to the fears of residents, winds up being posted elsewhere because of political considerations.

The decision was made with Police Chief Charles H. Ramsey saying that Cmdr. Solberg is a “very, very good guy” and hardly racist.

Last summer, when a rapist was accosting women in Glover Archibald Park, a police officer attending an Advisory Neighborhood Commission meeting gave a description of the suspect: his approximate age, height, weight and race.

That probably was not fair to the innocent who fit the general description.

Yet it would have been more unfair to the women in attendance not to provide the details.

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