D.C. Police Chief Cathy Lanier was among those who testified during a D.C. Council hearing on hate crimes and the Metropolitan Police Department’s response to them on Friday.
“As you know, my philosophy is that every member of the department is responsible for stopping crimes and fully addressing all members of the community in any matters relating to hate crimes,” she said. “With this in mind, I continue to emphasize… training and an understanding of the issues relating to hate crimes in the communities in the District that are most frequently affected by them.”
The Judiciary Committee hearing took place less than three days after Ali Jackson, Alvonica Jackson and Desmond Campbell allegedly stabbed a 16-year-old boy in what police have described as an anti-gay hate crime.
MPD statistics indicate that there were 43 reported bias-related crimes based on sexual orientation in 2011, compared to 35 in 2010. D.C. police reported that there were 11 bias-motivated crimes based on gender identity and expression in Washington in 2011, compared to 10 in 2010. MPD statistics further report that the number of reported anti-gay attacks in D.C. between January and May increased 60 percent over the same period last year.
“Washington remains the city with the highest rate of anti-LGBT violence in the nation, and the problem is only becoming worse,” noted Gays and Lesbians Opposing Violence Chair A.J. Singletary during his testimony.
While activists have generally welcomed what they describe as the MPD’s improved outreach to LGBT Washingtonians and other marginalized groups over the last year, they maintain that victims of anti-LGBT bias attacks remain afraid to come forward. GLOV Vice Chair Hassan Naveed and others have previously stressed to the Blade that high profile incidents of police misconduct, such as the officers who refused to take a report of an anti-gay attack against five lesbians outside the Columbia Heights Metro station last July, can dissuade victims from going to the authorities.
Lanier stressed during her testimony that detectives who investigate crimes against people receive specialized training on LGBT-specific issues. She said that “issues relating to hate crimes or serving communities targeted by them” have been incorporated into scenario-based roll call trainings.
“In addition to all of ongoing internal initiatives to ensure high quality interactions with victims in the communities affected by hate crimes, we are constantly engaged with the community to foster open communication,” added Lanier.
D.C. LGBT Community Center board member Holly Goldmann stressed that MPD needs to include local organizations in developing a training program for its Special Liaison Unit and Gay and Lesbian Liaison Unit officers. The Anti-Defamation League, the group that D.C. police has tapped to help bolster the department’s response to hate crimes, announced that it had invited the Human Rights Campaign, the National Center for Transgender Equality, the Leadership Conference on Civil Rights and two university professors to join the Hate Crimes Assessment Task Force.
Council members Jim Graham (D-Ward 1) and Phil Mendelson (D-At Large,) who chairs the Judiciary Committee, both expressed concern that D.C. groups are not represented on the panel. “[These are] great organizations involved, but that can be so much better enhanced by local groups who are really right there and extremely dedicated,” said Graham.
Council members David Catania (I-At Large) also attended the hearing. Jason Terry of the D.C. Trans Coalition and Rick Rosendall, vice president of political affairs of the Gay and Lesbian Activists Alliance, were among those who also testified.
Alvin Bethea read a letter on behalf of the mother of Deoni Jones, a trans woman who was stabbed to death at a Northeast bus stop in February. “This crime was no drug deal gone bad, no feud between rival street gangs, no attempted robber turned victim, no love triangle, no unpaid gambling debt, not even a petty dispute,” read Bethea as he became increasingly emotional. “No nothing but pure hatred.”