April 17, 2016 at 1:22 pm EST | by Lou Chibbaro Jr.
Gay sergeant takes office as head of D.C. police union
Matthew Mahl, gay news, Washington Blade

Sgt. Matthew Mahl (Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

Sergeant Matthew Mahl, a gay 12-year veteran with the Metropolitan Police Department and former supervisor of the department’s LGBT Liaison Unit, took office on April 1 as head of the police union.

Mahl’s election by a 2-to-1 margin on Jan. 12 as chairman of the Labor Committee of the Fraternal Order of Police — the official name of the union — was considered an upset victory over the incumbent chairman, Sgt. Delroy Burton.

Mahl and two other candidates who won election to the position of vice chairman and secretary ran on a platform calling for an end to what they considered an overly confrontational posture of the incumbents they defeated toward D.C. Police Chief Cathy Lanier and Mayor Muriel Bowser.

Although Mahl has said he would begin his new role as union chairman with a cordial working relationship with Lanier, he couldn’t immediately be reached to determine how he views the chief’s actions toward the LGBT Liaison Unit that he once led.

Some LGBT activists have expressed concern in recent years that Lanier has downgraded the effectiveness of the LGBT Liaison Unit by reassigning its members to non-LGBT related street patrol duties for as much as half of their daily work shifts. Others familiar with the unit say department officials have indicated Lanier may not replace liaison unit officers who retire or leave through normal attrition, raising the question of whether the unit will be phased out of existence.

Sources familiar with the department say Lanier also has reassigned to street patrol duties members of the other three liaison units for part of their daily shift — the Asian and Pacific Islander, Latino, and Deaf and Hard of Hearing units. The reassignments are said to be due a shortage of officers needed for street patrol duties brought about by a retirement “bubble” throughout the department. The sources say the chief appears not to be replacing most of the officers who leave the other three units as well.

Mahl, who was well liked by the officers working under him at the LGBT Liaison Unit and by members of the LGBT community, has yet to weigh in on recent developments associated with the liaison units.

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

1 Comment
  • That’s a police chief’s ‘soundbite’ cover story and bullshot excuse. The Blade ought not buy into that without deeper examination.

    Readers should understand that it is part of any police chief’s job to politically protect his/her mayor’s policies and positions.

    So the Blade (and other new reoorters) should be demanding answers from the *TOP 3* elected leaders responsible for DC public safety (Bowser, Mendelson and Mendo’s Council ‘Public Safety’ Chair, McDuffie). News reporters ought to be suspicious if defected to (essentially), politcal leaders’ PR surrogates (e.g., Bowser’s MPD chiefs and/or Public Safety Dep. Mayor Donahue).

    The truth is DC (via both successive mayors and councils) had already slashed its ratio of sworn police officers from about 70 per 10,000 population to 62 per 10,000.

    That was a huge cut all by itself. But DC is also now about 500-600 cops short of where it should be.

    Loss of a police department’s total force strength through normal attrition (retirements, promotions, transfers/ moves to other PDs) happens to every PD. But if MPD– at the direction of Council and/or the mayor– fails to replace those police officers lost to attrition, it is the same as CUTTING MPD’s force.

    It is sneaky and secretive, as no real public debate has been conducted.

    The current DC Council –AND– the mayor and her chief too (only to a slightly lesser extent) have continued to slash DC’s overall sworn police force. We have about 3,700 to 3,800 cops, while we should have about 4,300+ sworn cops.

    While DC’s population shot up by more than 50,000 over the past five years, MPD’s force was slashed through attrition by 300 cops. That is why violent crime– including homicides and armed robberies are way up over the last 18 months.

    Patrol visibility of police DETERS crimes, all by itself. That’s supported by decades of research an tons of anecdotal evidence from arrestees and informants.

    Mendelson and McDuffie in particular have crime victims’ blood on their hands– and for more reasons than just slashing MPD’s force size.

    At least the mayor and Chief Lanier have proposed minor (however insufficient) increases in MPD’s sworn force to keep pace with DC’s burgeoning population.

    Notwithstanding, Mendelson and McDuffie have routinely opposed the mayor’s crime-fighting proposals. As Mitch McConnell has done to Obama, Mayor-wannabe McDuffie has tried to obstruct Bowser at every turn. Mendo, too.

    So long as there is continued pressure by Mendo’s cop-hating Council to cut DC’s overall police strength, there will be continued pressure to cut MPD’s LGBT Liaison Unit’s force as well.

    Mendelson and McDuffie– and to a lesser extent, Bowser– ought to held accountable for DC’s and LGBTQ’s worsening public safety.

    It has also been disappointing that The DC Police Union has not done more to support strengthening of both force structures of MPD. Seeking out well qualified political opposition to crime-encouragement politicians like Mendelson and McDuffie would help LGBTQ public safety, too.

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    The reassignments are said to be due a shortage of officers needed for street patrol duties brought about by a retirement “bubble” throughout the department. The sources say the chief appears not to be replacing most of the officers who leave the other three units as well.**

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