February 12, 2014 | by Lou Chibbaro Jr.
Police gay liaison unit transferred to patrol duty
Cathy Lanier, Metropolitan Police Department, MPD, GLLU, gay news, Washington Blade

D.C. Police Chief Cathy Lanier has reassigned members of the department’s GLLU to street patrol duties. (Washington Blade file photo by Michael Key)

A decision by D.C. Police Chief Cathy Lanier to indefinitely reassign members of the department’s Gay and Lesbian Liaison Unit to street patrol duties in the Sixth and Seventh Police Districts is hindering their ability to respond to LGBT-related calls throughout the city, according to sources familiar with the Metropolitan Police Department.

A statement released on behalf of Lanier by MPD spokesperson Gwendolyn Crump disputes this claim, saying the GLLU and at least one other specialized unit whose officers have also been detailed to other assignments “are still operational and doing what they have done in the past” to serve the LGBT and other communities.

But the sources, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said the GLLU’s four active officers previously assigned to the GLLU headquarters office in Dupont Circle have most recently been assigned to patrol a single location deemed a high-crime area – the 1500 block of Alabama Avenue, S.E. – and must obtain permission to answer a GLLU call outside that location.

“That permission is not always granted,” said one of the sources.

The GLLU and the three other specialized units serving the Latino, Asian-Pacific Islander, and deaf and hard of hearing communities routinely have been temporarily detailed to street patrol and other assignments since former D.C. Police Chief Charles Ramsey created the units in the 1990s.

The latest change, believed to have been initiated by Assistant Chief Diane Groomes, who heads the department’s patrol division, is different than past detail assignments because it has no known termination date and appears to be an indefinite reassignment for the units, the sources said.

One of the sources said the department also rearranged the work shifts for members of all four liaison units. Prior to these changes, the four units collectively had officers on duty seven days a week, 24 hours a day except for one hour, the source said. Now, according to the source, no core liaison officer is on duty during a period from 4 a.m. to 10 a.m. every day.

“Specific units such as the GLLU and the Asian Liaison Unit have been deployed to the Sixth and Seventh Police District over the last several weeks to enhance community outreach in areas of the city that have seen a high demand and call volume from specific communities represented by the Liaison Division,” Crump said in her statement.

“Even though the officers were given specific areas to patrol and provide community outreach in, the officers are still available to respond to any area of the city to assist when calls for service come in as well as follow up with victims as they have in the past,” Crump said.

She noted in her statement to the Blade that the latest change came in response to a review of last year’s calls for service to the GLLU. She said a “large volume” of calls came from the Sixth and Seventh Districts and that many of the calls were for incidents of domestic violence.

“Domestic/family violence is a huge concern, and the number of domestic/family violence crimes and incidents that are taking place in the Sixth and Seventh Police Districts involving members of the LGBT community is something that urgently needs to be addressed by the members of the GLLU and Special Liaison Division,” Crump said.

The Seventh District is located in the far Southeast section of the city east of the Anacostia River. The Sixth District consists of a section of far Southeast and part of far Northeast D.C.

The sources familiar with the GLLU who spoke to the Blade said GLLU officers are committed to responding to domestic violence calls and doing all they can to assist victims of domestic violence. But two of the sources said deploying the GLLU’s four currently active core officers to a single block on Alabama Avenue would do little to help curtail domestic violence.

“So how do they respond more quickly to domestic violence if they’re told not to leave the area that they’ve been assigned?” asked one of the sources.

Another source said that since the GLLU officers were detailed nearly two months ago “they haven’t been doing what they normally do and that’s to go out to all wards of the city and all the districts and do outreach and crime patrols and stuff like that,” said the source. “So that’s why they haven’t been around” and seen in the LGBT community in other parts of the city, the source said.

Capt. Edward Delgado, commander of the Special Liaison Division, has in the past issued a weekly and sometimes biweekly report sent by email describing the types of calls to which each of the four liaison units responded and the location of the calls. Delgado’s report also described specific patrol locations where the units, including the GLLU, were assigned each week.

The Blade stopped receiving the reports around the time the GLLU officers were detailed to their new assignments in the Sixth and Seventh Districts.

One of the sources said all four special liaison units had been detailed to areas in the Sixth and Seventh Districts. Crump’s statement only mentions the GLLU and the Asian Liaison Unit as having been detailed to the new locations.

Sterling Washington, director of the Mayor’s Office of GLBT Affairs, said Delgado told him the changes were limited to the GLLU and the Asian Liaison Unit.

The MPD website page for the Special Liaison Division included a chart early this week that showed there were six “core” members of the GLLU and 110 affiliate GLLU members based in the seven police districts and in other police units.

Lanier created the affiliate program for the liaison units shortly after becoming chief in 2007 as a means of strengthening the reach and capabilities of the units. Affiliate members receive special training related to the specific liaison unit to which they join, the chief has said. She has said they are trained to respond to liaison unit calls but remain assigned to their regular police duties in the police districts.

The sources, however, said the core GLLU officers, who are in charge of training the affiliate members, aren’t informed by police officials about how many affiliate members respond to GLLU-related calls. One source wondered whether most of the officers listed as affiliate members actually respond to any GLLU calls or are involved in LGBT related police matters.

The sources said the list of core GLLU officers shown on the website was outdated in that only four of the six listed were currently active with the unit. The website chart identifies the core GLLU members as Officers Kevin Johnson, Justin Markiewicz, Joseph Morquecho, Zunnobia Hakir, Juanita Foreman, and Sgt. Carlos Mejia. The chart shows Mejia as serving both the GLLU and the Latino Liaison Unit.

According to the sources, Officer Hakir is on indefinite maternity leave and Sgt. Mejia was no longer with the GLLU or the Latino Liaison Unit. Sgt. Matthew Mahl, who had been serving as acting supervisor of the GLLU in the recent past, is currently working with the GLLU three days a week on limited duty while recovering from a work-related injury, the sources said.

In her statement, Crump said plans are under way for new activities for the GLLU and other liaison units.

“In the coming months, members of the GLLU and the Special Liaison Division as a whole will launch various community outreach initiatives throughout all of the police districts focusing on the different concerns within each specific community and geographic location,” she said.

“Each police district has different needs, so the Special Liaison Division remains flexible to provide the best possible service and community outreach everywhere,” Crump said.

Lou Chibbaro Jr. has reported on the LGBT civil rights movement and the LGBT community for more than 30 years, beginning as a freelance writer and later as a staff reporter and currently as Senior News Reporter for the Washington Blade. He has chronicled LGBT-related developments as they have touched on a wide range of social, religious, and governmental institutions, including the White House, Congress, the U.S. Supreme Court, the military, local and national law enforcement agencies and the Catholic Church. Chibbaro has reported on LGBT issues and LGBT participation in local and national elections since 1976. He has covered the AIDS epidemic since it first surfaced in the early 1980s. Follow Lou

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