Honoring our Everyday Heroes: PEMM Student Captain LaShay N. Makal

Captain LaShay Makal Headshot
June 22, 2021

The contents of this article are not representative of the views of the Metropolitan Police Department or the DC Government.

We sat down with Captain LaShay N. Makal to discuss innovative new approaches to community policing within the District of Columbia Metropolitan Police Department (MPD) that are taking place against the backdrop of the Derek Chauvin trial in the death of George Floyd, calls for social justice, and the efforts to rebuild the trust between the community and the City’s police force.

Captain Makal has been with the MPD since 2005, and was recently promoted to lead the newly-minted Violence Reduction Unit (VRU), part of the Narcotics and Special Investigations Unit. The VRU utilizes an intelligence-based approach to reducing violent crime in the nation’s capital. She is a member of the current cohort of the nationally-acclaimed Program for Excellence in Municipal Management (PEMM), which has helped develop mid-level and senior managers and leaders in DC Government for the last 25 years.

What was the vision for launching the Violence Reduction Unit (VRU)? What’s the innovation behind it? 

The Unit began with the idea of making communities safer, in order to help them thrive, and to fix the relationship between those communities and the police force. Through moving away from the warrior mentality of police presence and flattening the curve, by utilizing data as well as officers with the right frame of mind to influence change in communities, the Unit hoped to repair their relationship and remove the uncertainty within it. We utilize a holistic data-based approach and statistics to determine areas that need police attention and provide assistance to citizens. We focus on combating the actors who are pushing violence within DC neighborhoods, without sweeping the entirety of the area into a proverbial net. 

How did the death George Floyd, and the social unrest that followed impact VRU? 

Even before George Floyd, we were already seeing the writing on the wall. Policing was changing… I credit my Department for always trying to think ahead of the next challenge. How can we get ahead of that? How can we adapt? What does that look like? And, I think it looks like the Violence Reduction Unit.

What is the impact you are making? How do you, personally, measure success? 

I tell this story all the time: after our first major investigation closed, so many citizens approached us and just thanked us for being there, and making it feel like home to them again. They could walk into their apartment building without feeling threatened. And… it may sound kind of cheesy to people, but when police officers say they want to help them make a difference, hearing that feedback… well, I have a soft spot for that. I absolutely love all the work that we did. Of course, that anecdotal feedback was backed with statistics, showing approximately a hundred percent reduction in calls for certain services such as sounds of gunshots, and children reappearing to play on streets that were formerly riddled with crime. That, along with many other initiatives, such as Mayor Bowser’s Building Blocks Initiative, are moving things in the right direction.  

How did your experience in the PEMM program help prepare you for this new role? 

I'm taking so much away from the program! We have monthly coaching sessions, and I was just talking to my coach Cheryl Robertson yesterday and telling her how I'm applying and pouring what I learn into the MPD. PEMM has also encouraged me to learn about the history of DC, and I want to bring that subject matter expertise to MPD to foster an environment that repairs and builds relationships with communities in DC. What’s more, we have a Peer Learning Circle in PEMM, and it's absolutely my favorite… So much so that I just introduced it last week to my staff here. I want to break down the silos within the MPD through these peer circles, with the hopes of limiting the information gaps, and opening up lines of communication. 

What’s next for you?

We're pushing communication about VRU through all our departments, and I think we’re already in the process of expanding the Unit. With that said, I would love to see it adopted beyond MPD to serve as a model for other cities, and I actually think we can get to that place. The Unit will get bigger and better, allowing us to expand our footprint, which is phenomenal!