Georgetown's Top Cop: Melvin Gresham
In April, Commander Melvin Gresham of the Metropolitan Police Department took over the reins of the Second Police District -- which includes Georgetown -- where he previously served as a captain. He has been assigned to the Fourth, Third, Fifth and Seventh Patrol Districts and served in the Narcotics Branch and the Special Operations Division. The 30-year veteran met with the Georgetowner several times, whether on M Street, Wisconsin Avenue or at Volta Park. The tall, unassuming police officer looks to us like a stand-up guy -- and took the time to answer a few questions.
Gresham went to Fairmont Heights High School in Prince Georges County and the University of Maryland University College.
"As a young man, I actually had my sights on becoming a professional boxer, but witnessed the sordid side of the sport, " he told us. "When this dream ended, I worked in the local state government in Maryland. One Friday evening, I received a phone call from an old high school friend who wanted me to accompany him to take the entrance exam for the D.C. Police Department. We both ended up taking the exam, and we were both accepted to the department."
Now in charge of policing Georgetown, Gresham had an outsider's view of the oldest neighborhood in Washington at first. "As a teen, I had heard so many stories about the extravagant stores in Georgetown and also the historic scenery," he said. "I must say that during my first visit, I was truly mesmerized. As a young man in my early 20s, I would frequent the Georgetown area. Back then, it was more of an entertainment area. Now, I would say Georgetown is more family-oriented."
As for the city in general and its crime problems, he said. "D.C. has improved tremendously since the late 1980s and the 1990s. I believe that the strong partnerships between the various law enforcement agencies and the community involvement truly made the difference."
"One of the most valuable lessons that I have learned throughout my career is to have empathy, be compassionate, be fair and treat people the way that you would want to be treated," Gresham said. "Most of all, be respectful. In my long career, I have been on the scene of many horrific crimes that I will always remember, but the hardest are the crimes that involved the elderly or children. But I do not like seeing anyone victimized."
For Gresham, a key ingredient for policing is training. "I would say that the training we receive and the daily experiences that our members have in handling the various activities in the city have prepared us for handling demonstrations, both large and small," he said.
In talking about the police and residents, Gresham said, "The definition may vary, however, my definition is a partnership between the police and the community in creating and sustaining a safe and healthy relationship and environment. I believe that you have to listen to the officers who are on the beat. The men and women who are on the street are the ones that I go to help implement community policing. To enlist the assistance of the community, the police must build trust and foster a strong working relationship. Each member of our department receives very detailed training at the time of acceptance in the MPD Police Academy. The training lasts for approximately six to seven months."
Aside from the violent crime in D.C., Gresham said, for the Second District, "Some of the most challenging crime are actually property crimes, such as thefts, theft from autos and burglaries. The reason being, there are very few witnesses."
The commander considers the relationship between the MPD and the community very positive. "I constantly receive emails and letters from citizens who commend the officers on their dedication and professionalism," he said. "The citizens are very supportive."
For Gresham, characteristics that make a good police officer are "honesty, integrity, professionalism and respect." And the coolest thing about being a cop? "I would say making a positive impact in someone’s life," he said.