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Posted at 05:40 PM ET, 10/09/2012

Longtime D.C. police district commander to retire

The longest currently serving district commander on the D.C. police force, who for eight years led officers patrolling some of the city’s most crime-troubled communities, is retiring to become chief of the District’s Housing Authority police.

Cmdr. Joel R. Maupin, who began his career in 1983 as a beat officer on the same streets of the 7th District in Southeast he oversees, said his last day will be Nov. 3. The 52-year-old starts his new job at the housing authority two days later.

Community leaders praised Maupin’s tenure Tuesday, saying he worked tirelessly to forge ties with residents and answer their complaints.

Crime in many categories went down under his watch, homicides plummeting from 55 when he took over the district in 2004 to 20 last year. There have been 21 slayings so far this year, however, and robberies are up — as they are across the city.

Those same community leaders said residents living in areas such as Barry Farm, Anacostia and Congress Heights would be hard-pressed to call themselves safe, underscoring the continuing challenges that Maupin faced daily and his successor will also tackle.

“I’ve seen the community really change, and I must say for the better,” Maupin said on Tuesday. “But there’s still a lot of work to be done.”

Maupin’s new position will be a radical change. In D.C., he commanded more officers on a single shift than there are on the entire housing police force, which has 30 sworn officers. In the 7th District, Maupin had about 400 officers at his disposal.

The commander’s new career will take him into many of the same areas he confronted during his nearly three decades on the force, and he said he planned to instill community-style policing on the housing police and use his close ties with the city to pool resources.

The District of Columbia Housing Authority police force was created in 2005. Its small number of officers is supplemented by what is called “Special Police,” security guards deputized to make arrests on 53 public housing complexes. The force is overseen by a quasi-public housing board independent of the city.

Maupin, who is replacing a retiring chief, will earn about $146,000 a year, less than his current salary of $157,500. Pension rules prohibit him from earning an amount higher than his previous salary when his pension and new salary are combined. Maupin did not respond to an e-mailed question about pension matters.

A spokeswoman for the D.C. police said a replacement for Maupin has not yet been named. Kristopher Baumann, the police union chief, said a thin command staff could make finding a replacement a challenge.

Baumann said the 7th District, even with some declines in crime, has consistently remained among the most dangerous in the city. He said residents there “deserve a command official that has vision, has drive and is given the resources he needs to change the environment.”

Maupin, whose 29th anniversary on the city force is next week, called his new job “a great opportunity to continue my law enforcement career.”

He said he is most proud of his work with residents, which he said has enabled officers to work closely with the community to solve and prevent crime. He said it was much different when he joined the department in the early 1980s at the onset of the crack epidemic, when he said policing was far more confrontational.

Maupin said one of his biggest challenges was convincing people in Southeast that they too were a part of greater Washington. “There has always been a stigma, be it real or perceived, that the services east of the river don’t rival the services on the west side,” he said. “And that is somewhat true.”

He said he will work in his new job to try to “give the citizens the same resources and amenities here that there are on the other side of the bridge.”

Anthony Muhammad, a former Advisory Neighborhood Commissioner in Southeast, called Maupin’s departure “bittersweet” — he’s sad to lose him from the force but said public housing residents are getting a good leader. He said Maupin drove down crime with fewer resources than his predecessors.

Philip Pannell, president of the Congress Heights Community Association, also credited Maupin with embodying the spirit community policing and that he always was willing to meet “even people who were irate with him. He approached his job not as a job, but as a mission, to enhance the quality of life in his community.”

But Pannell said that crime statistics, even ones showing the number of killings dropping from 45 in 2010 to less than half that number in 2011, don’t mean much to people living in places such as Congress Heights.

“Here in certain neighborhoods, we have been having so many problems with robberies,” Pannell said. “It’s very difficult to convince people in my community that homicides have gone down, or that crime has gone down, when we hear gun shots every night and every day there is a report of criminal activity.”

Pannell said the challenge for Maupin’s successor will be “getting to know the community. Many times, community and police relationships suffer from basic misunderstandings. ... The new commander must take the time to cultivate and nurture those relationships. We need a person willing to take the time to make that happen.”

By  |  05:40 PM ET, 10/09/2012

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