D.C. Police Chief Cathy Lanier told LGBT activists that as many as seven police officers could be fired for refusing to take a report for a hate-related attack against five lesbians on July 30 near the Columbia Heights Metro station.
In a private meeting on Aug. 4 with officials of the local group Gays and Lesbians Opposing Violence, Lanier called the conduct by the officers “lazy policing,” according A.J. Singletary, the group’s chair.
“She said they’re going to be doing a thorough investigation but that type of offense can be punishable by termination,” Singletary quoted Lanier as saying. “So she laid it on the table that it’s possible that they may be fired. That depends on what the investigation determines,” he said.
Two of the five victims in the attack told the Blade that a man repeatedly called the women “dyke bitches” before he and another man punched each of them in the face and body. The women said the anti-lesbian name-calling and the attack began after they politely spurned the men’s attempt to “flirt” with them as they walked along the 3100 block of 14th Street, N.W. at about 3 a.m.
The first suspect became enraged, the two women said, after one of the women said she was with her girlfriend, effectively identifying them as lesbians.
The police department’s Gay & Lesbian Liaison Unit did take a report of the incident three days later, on Aug. 2, after the mother of one of the women called police to complain that officers on the scene of the attack had refused to take such a report. The report lists the incident as an anti-lesbian hate crime.
Yazzmen Morse, one of the attack victims, said as many as seven police officers arrived in four police cars after a bystander observing the incident apparently called 911. Morse said the officers apprehended and detained one of the two male suspects in the case but released the man a short time later, much to the dismay of the five women.
“I was appalled when I heard about the incident and the conduct of the officers,” Lanier said in a statement she released on Aug. 5. “Obviously, this is not the kind of service that the Metropolitan Police Department provides,” she said. “I have spoken with victims in this case and I want to assure them and the public that the incident and the conduct of the officers are being investigated thoroughly.”
Singletary said Lanier also told GLOV officials at the Aug. 4 meeting that police were close to obtaining warrants for the arrest of the two suspects and that arrests would be made possibly within days.
Singletary said that while GLOV officials don’t dispute Lanier’s characterization of the officers’ conduct as lazy policing, he and former GLOV Chair Chris Farris asked Lanier to look into whether anti-gay sentiment on the part of the officers played a role in the case.
“We conveyed that we also want the investigation to consider if there’s something beyond just laziness there, if there was homophobia on the part of the responding officers and if that had something to do with this as well,” Singletary said.