My introduction to reporting in Washington a decade ago came not at the White House or on Capitol Hill, but in a Metropolitan Police Department cruiser, riding with the watch commander of the overnight shift in MPD’s 7th District in Anacostia. For a white kid from Vermont, it was a fascinating nocturnal lesson in how race is lived in the nation’s capital. The cop I rode with explained that working nights made policing so much easier: He knew he could arrest any white person he spotted—there was no legitimate reason for a white person to be in his neighborhoods during the hours he worked. And, indeed, all but one of the cops on that particular shift were black, as was every civilian we saw that night.
Just before 2 a.m., we responded to a fresh homicide. A 23-year-old’s body was still on the sidewalk, shot more than a half-dozen times. It was a warm spring night—the last of the cherry blossoms had blown away just a few days earlier—and even that late, there was plenty of activity still in the str...
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