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D.C. Council Grills Parks Department On Recent Sexual Assault

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A D.C. Council hearing on a reported sexual assault at the Wilson Aquatic Center in Northwest D.C. reveals potential security flaws at the pool and other public facilities.

Police are currently investigating the rape of a woman by an employee at the Wilson pool. Two other women, both reportedly underage according to a Council member, have also come forward and said they were sexually assaulted by an employee at the facility.

Employees at the pool, the hearing revealed, had been using their keys to bring people back into the public facility after it had closed. One employee has been fired, another suspended. So far police have not arrested anyone.

The hearing zeroed in on the security protocols in place at the Wilson pool and other public facilities.

Sharia Shanklin, the interim director of the D.C. Department of Parks and Recreation, testified that "at no time were patrons in danger because the incidents allegedly took place after-hours."

But Council member Mary Cheh (D-Ward 3) was not convinced, asking repeatedly: How is it possible that facility managers had no idea their employees were coming back after-hours, given that there are security cameras and alarm system logs that would show these unauthorized entrances?

"Did they know or should they have known these activities were going on?", asked Cheh.

"In this case, I would have to say they did not know because of their performance level they would've communicated it to us. Our managers would not have allowed this behavior to persist if they were aware of it," responded Shanklin.

"Did you put those questions to them directly?", asked Cheh.

"I did not ask them those questions," said Shanklin.

Shanklin says this behavior, in her words, was not one that anyone thought could occur.

Council Member David Grosso (I-At Large) grilled Shanklin on security.

"So who is going to lose their job over this? You have people using the facility after hours," Grosso says. "There may be a sexual assault, maybe more than one maybe three. You've got doors being left open in the morning."

Shanklin says DPR is conducting an exhaustive investigation into this issue and other security practices at the department, and that it will be completed by Christmas.

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