June 12, 2014 | by Lou Chibbaro Jr.
Lanier gives briefing on police-trans issues
Cathy Lanier, DC Metro Police, gay news, Washington Blade

D.C. Police Chief Cathy Lanier (Washington Blade photo by Strother Gaines)

D.C. Police Chief Cathy Lanier told a transgender community town hall meeting Tuesday night that her department is moving quickly to implement recommendations by an independent task force on ways to improve police response to crimes targeting the transgender community.

Lanier, who was joined by nearly a dozen high-level police officials, including a captain and sergeant in charge of the police Gay and Lesbian Liaison Unit, said the overwhelming majority of officers are sensitive to the needs and concerns of transgender citizens.

She said that in cases where members of the LGBT community in general and the trans community in particular encounter improper or abusive treatment by a police officer, such incidents should immediately be reported to the department through an established complaint process.

“If there is wrongdoing on the part of a police officer, we want to know about it,” she said. “We should address that, and we will.”

The town hall event was sponsored jointly by the D.C. Trans Coalition, Casa Ruby, Gays and Lesbians Opposing Violence (GLOV), the Gay and Lesbian Activists Alliance, the LGBT youth advocacy group SMYAL and the sex worker advocacy group HIPS.

The meeting was held in a community room of the D.C. Department of Employment Services on Minnesota Ave, N.E.

The sponsoring groups asked Lanier to discuss the department’s response to the findings and recommendations of a 41-page report prepared by the Hate Crimes Assessment Task Force, an independent body created by the Anti-Defamation League of Washington at Lanier’s request.

Among other things, the task force found that although the “vast majority of MPD leaders and personnel” are committed to the security and safety of the LGBT community, shortcomings exist in the department’s relations with the transgender community.

“With the exception of GLLU officers, most transgender people do not trust the police and believe that MPD officers too frequently see them as criminals because they are transgender,” the report states.

The report says the task force conducted its research between April 2012 and September 2013, which included “extensive interviews with LGBT leaders and advocates, LGBT community members, and MPD personnel of all ranks throughout the department,” with an emphasis on officers assigned to hate crimes, LGBT outreach and related duties.

In response to at least two-dozen questions from audience members, Lanier outlined the department’s efforts to address issues raised by the task force report, most of which are included as an addendum to the report.

The department has already taken steps to revamp the GLLU’s officer affiliate program to improve the training and selection of GLLU affiliate officers, who are assigned to each of the department’s eight police districts throughout the city.

The task force report says many in the LGBT community expressed concern that the GLLU became more distant and less visible to the community after the affiliate program was created by Lanier to expand the reach of the GLLU beyond its half dozen or so “core” officers.

Lanier said her supervisors in the police districts are now carefully assessing how the GLLU affiliate members are interacting with the community. Those found not to have a “good fit” for community interaction will be reassigned to other duties and officers more suited for the GLLU’s duties will replace them, she said.

“So we’ve come a long way,” she told the Blade after the meeting. “Are there individuals in the department — we have almost 5,000 employees — that may harbor a bias? Of course there are. But we can’t let that define our organization. We have to let the mass of the police define our organization and keep looking to get rid of people who don’t belong here,” she said.

Veteran transgender activist Earline Budd and Jason Terry, a member of the D.C. Trans Coalition, said they were optimistic that Lanier will carry out the task force report’s recommendations for improving the department’s relations with the trans community.

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

2 Comments
  • Chief Lanier has not given an explanation for the break-up of the MPD Gay and Lesbian Liaison Unit -Task Force. Police Officers, who were assigned to this Task Force, were removed and detailed to other units and areas of the city in late 2013 and early 2014.

    Additionally, Lanier has not given a promised to the LGBT that the disbandment of the Gay and Lesbian Liaison Unit – Task Force will not occur again in the future.

    Calvin H. Gurley

  • Calvin, it’s always good to get a fuller idea of what’s really going on. This message from the Chief was released last night (6/18)…
      
    METROPOLITAN POLICE DEPARTMENT/
    CHIEF CATHY L. LANIER
    (VIA SPECIAL LIAISON DIVISION)
     
    Jun 18 at 10:55 PM
    Re. Recent robberies
     
    Good evening,
    I want to take this opportunity to share a recent pattern that has emerged in PSA 608, along the Eastern Avenue corridor and side streets. Between June 10th and June 18th, during the hours of 2:00 am and 6:00 am in the morning, with the exception of one, there have been five robberies in which the victims are all transgender. In each case the victim is approached by one or more suspects and demands are made for their purse. The descriptions of the subjects are not the same. There were guns displayed in at least two of the robberies and verbal threats were used in others. In the most recent robbery, on June 18th at 2:30 am, MPD arrested two juveniles and recovered the property that was stolen from the victim. At this time, we do not believe that these robberies are related as MPD has been provided varying descriptions by the victims.
     
    If any member of the community has information related to these robberies, we are requesting that you contact MPD at 202-727-9099. Additionally anonymous information may be submitted to the department’s TEXT TIP LINE by test messaging 50411. We have also requested the support of our community advocates to provide outreach to the victims in these cases. The Sixth District is working with both MPD’s Gay and Lesbian Liaison Unit (GLU) and The Prince Georges County Police Department to enhance patrols and investigate these crimes.
     
    Cathy L. Lanier
    Chief of Police

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