Exclusive Interview: Duncan Bedlion, Commander Second District, MPD
By July 13, 2022 0 753•
What’s happening with crime in Georgetown? The Georgetowner interviewed Georgetown’s top cop, Duncan Bedlion, Commander of the Second District of the Metropolitan Police Department (MPD) to find out whether progress is being made.
Appointed as MPD commander of the Second District in January 2019 after 14 years on the force, Bedlion holds a Master’s degree from GW in Professional Studies in Security and Safety Leadership. He’s served as MPD Commander of the Youth and Family Services Division, manager of the Seventh District’s Detectives Unit as well as commander of its the Sexual Assault Unit. “I’ve worked in almost every patrol district,” he told us. According to Bedlion’s biographical blurb on the MPD’s website, Bedlion “loves spending time hiking and watching football with his wife and three young sons.”
Asked about the recent spate of gun violence in Georgetown, Bedlion said despite some negatives, statistics overall are moving the right direction. “We’ve seen some key violent crime figures go up across the city,” Bedlion said. “Homicides and robberies are the most notable.” However, recalling what he told the Citizens Association of Georgetown (CAG) in their last meeting, he said that those trends are “not holding up in Georgetown.” Looking at the latest crime statistics, Bedlion said, “Every crime category that we measure is currently down in Georgetown. What I do know in my experience being here for about 3 and a-half years, is that there are ongoing reports of mental health episodes that concern not just residents in Georgetown but throughout the city…. [and this] contributes to some people’s perception that crime is up.” So, Bedlion emphasizes the importance of working closely with “interagency partners and the Department of Behavioral Health (DBH) to make sure we’re addressing those concerns in the fairest way possible.”
Bedlion expressed agreement with MPD Chief Robert Contee that the pandemic appears to have heightened juvenile violent crime in the District.
Even if crime rates in Georgetown have gone down in certain categories, haven’t there been much-publicized gun murders on M Street and elsewhere? “Well, one thing I want people to know is that in some of the gun incidents, specifically the last two homicides in Georgetown – the one on M Street this year and the one on Thomas Jefferson last year – is that we know the victims were intentionally targeted by the suspects, so it wasn’t a random shooting or a random crime…. For the one on M Street, we did release that there was a “wanted suspect” who was known and we shared that with the community. So, those are the things we actively pursue. And we have one of the best homicide detective units in the country.”
Following cuts to the MPD force in the wake of the Black Lives Matter protests, Bedlion is pleased to see city funding increased again under Mayor Bowser to boost the number of MPD officers on the force back to previous levels. “In 2020, the D.C. Council, led by Charles Allen [Ward 6], made an effort to cut staffing and budgeting for us to hire,” Bedlion said. “But, under Mayor Bowser, we were able to get to the point where we could hire again. And we’re hiring right now. So, we’re encouraging anybody who’s interested in applying to please do so and we’re looking to hire more members so we can get back up to where we were prior to 2020.” As the force is re-enlarged, there will also be more cops on the beat, Bedlion assures. “As we hire more, you’ll see more officers. And you’ll see them in a variety of forms – on mountain bikes, on scooters, on foot, and in cars.”
Criticisms of over-policing in the wake of the Black Lives Matter movement have long-since been addressed by MPD, Bedlion holds. “Each uniformed police officer is equipped with a body-worn camera. Individuals have the right to see them through their Freedom of Information office. We also have an independent, civilian-led Office of Police Complaints (OPC) where all of our complaints go through them. So, if a citizen is not happy with police service, they have the right to make a complaint and an investigation is delegated by the OPC, not by the MPD. There are also opportunities for citizens to see us up close and personal. One that I recommend is our Ride-Along Program. And there’s also one we’re doing right now called the Community Engagement Academy where people who are interested can engage in our training, see some of the tactics we use in terms of how we handle various scenes and we welcome folks to take a look at that and we look forward to their participation.” Through the Crisis Intervention Officer Training Program, the Second District has also created a force of approximately 60 officers to mitigate potentially violent encounters without resorting to the use of force.
Bedlion also embraces inter-agency approaches that help secure public safety. “We have great cooperation with other D.C. government agencies and our federal partners as well,” he said. “I know, for example, we have a very regular and ongoing committed relationship with the Department of Behavioral Health (DBH). They assist on certain 911 calls and come to various scenes where they’re needed together with us. Our officers are engaging with them and calling them. I work with them quite often. And, it’s not just DBH whom we work with on mental health-related issues, but all of our D.C. government partners, the Department of Human Services (DHS) on homelessness issues and support systems… We work with the Department of Public Works (DPW) to address vehicle concerns, the Department of Consumer and Regulatory Affairs (DCRA) and the Alcohol and Beverage Regulatory Association (ABRA) have been great partners as well. One example is with Charcoal Town – a bar that had certain licensing issues – and we worked with ABRA to get that to stop. So, we were really grateful for that partnership.”
With many Georgetowners concerned about homeless encampments as a source of local crime and disruption, Bedlion is careful to say that statistical assessments have not yet been made following Mayor Bowser’s initiatives to clear the encampments. “What I can tell you is that our violent crime has gone down in general and I’ve also noticed I’ve received fewer complaints about homeless encampments in Georgetown,” Bedlion said, stressing that MPD plays a “supportive role” to the Office of the Deputy Mayor for Health and Human Services who “takes the lead on the encampment protocol.”
Bedlion is pleased with how Georgetowners work together to keep the community safe. “I think Georgetowners do a great job,” Bedlion said. “I would point to the Citizens Association of Georgetown (CAG) block captains. That’s a group of people committed to sharing information, communicating concerns to their neighbors, and looking out for each other. I think for me as a district commander it’s a real privilege to work with CAG and the block captains because I know how engaged they are.”
Bedlion also encourages participation in the Private Camera Rebate Program through the Office of Victim Services and Justice Grants. “Private businesses and private residents can purchase a security camera and then apply for [a] rebate. It’s online [at https://ovsjg.dc.gov] and it’s something we encourage everyone to participate in…. So, if there’s a crime in the area, we simply ask if someone is willing to provide the footage to us and we’ve had help in closing crimes because of this program. Not only that, but it’s a deterrent as well to have those cameras on your home or on your business.”