January 22, 2010 at 3:54 pm EST | by Lou Chibbaro Jr.
D.C. police add 23 ‘affiliate’ officers to gay liaison unit

In a little-noticed development, a D.C. police official last week released the names of 23 officers assigned as “affiliate” members of the department’s Gay & Lesbian Liaison Unit.

The affiliate officers, who are based in the department’s seven police districts, represent the culmination of Police Chief Cathy Lanier’s long-awaited plan to expand and decentralize the GLLU and three other special liaison units.

“The Metropolitan Police Department is pleased to announce the expansion of the Special Liaison Unit to better serve the needs of the community,” said Capt. Edward Delgado, supervisor of the SLU, which oversees the individual liaison units, in a Jan. 13 announcement.

In addition to the GLLU, the special liaison units include the Latino Liaison Unit, Asian Liaison Unit, and Deaf & Hard of Hearing Liaison Unit.

Delgado issued his announcement through an online listserve group created by the SLU to communicate with civic activists and members of citizen advisory councils linked to each of the seven police districts.

In his announcement, Delgado included a list of 50 affiliate officers and the individual liaison unit to which they are assigned. It shows that nearly half of the offers — 23 — are assigned to the GLLU. Sixteen affiliate officers are assigned to the Latino Liaison Unit and five each are assigned to the Asian and Deaf & Hard of Hearing liaison units.

Delgado told DC Agenda on Thursday that upon completing an SLU training course, officers were allowed to choose the specific liaison unit to which they would be assigned, and the GLLU was a popular choice.

“I was totally shocked that almost half of them wanted to be GLLU members,” he said. “I thought not that many would want to be dealing with some of the issues within the gay community. But the feedback that I’ve gotten from the officers has been all positive as it relates to working in the community. They’re on target and they have done an excellent job.”

Although his announcemt about the affiliate officers came Jan. 13, he said all of the affiliates started in their posts in the first and second week of December.

Delgado’s announcement did not discuss the status of the GLLU’s headquarters office in Dupont Circle, which has decreased from seven full-time officers three years ago to just one in November.

Assistant Police Chief Diane Groomes told DC Agenda in an e-mail Wednesday that the department has designated four officers and three supervisors to the GLLU’s central or headquarters unit.

Groomes noted that it would be up to the individual GLLU members to disclose their own sexual orientation and the department would not say which members, if any, are gay.

Groomes said the headquarters unit consists of Officers Joe Morquecho, Juanita Foreman, Zunnobia Hakir and Kevin Johnson. She said Delgado, along with Sgt. Carlos Mejia, supervisor of the GLLU and the Latino Liaison Unit, and Lt. Allan Thomas are designated as GLLU supervisory members.

Lanier has told LGBT activists in the past that GLLU headquarters staff decreased due to attrition as officers sought new assignments or left the department. She told activists that a reduced police budget and urgent deployment needs in high-crime areas of the city prevented her from filling the vacant positions.

In recent years, Lanier said she was holding off filling the vacant posts while she arranged for the expanded and decentralized liaison units that went into effect last week.

Officials with Gays & Lesbians Opposing Violence had complained that Lanier effectively “dismantled” the GLLU before she put in place the decentralized units with the affiliate officers. Chris Farris, co-chair of GLOV, could not be immediately reached for comment on the department’s latest expansion of the GLLU.

In announcing the 50 affiliate officers for the liaison units, Delgado also provided advice on how people should contact the units.

“In case of emergency, or for immediate police response, always call 911,” he said. “Once police are on the scene, you may request that an on-duty affiliate or liaison officer be contacted.”

He said that for other police-related services, such as requests for an affiliate or liaison officer to attend a meeting or for other non-emergency issues, the individual liaison offices can be contacted directly. The number for the GLLU is 202-727-5427.

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

  • I think the overall idea behind decentalizing the liason units is good. You won’t have them only in the “gayborhood”. I agree that the new plan should have been in place before the old one was abandoned though.

  • There is no one I know that doesn’t agree with the concept of expanding the Liaison Units across the District. I am pleased that so many officers have agreed to become affiliates of the BLBT and other Units.

    The issue still remains that they will need additional training and that they will need to have regular meetings with the GLBT community and the other communities they serve to discuss the issues facing the community and so they will understand what is happening in the community.

    The argument that many including myself had with this plan was that it was ill thought out and no real disucssion with the community was held before it was put into operation. There is an arrogance to doing things this way which generates distrust and skepticism. That is sad because it can usually be avoided by a little bit of trust- and that trust has to be a two way street- and it is generated by ongoing communication.

    I know I and many of the others in the GLBT community are hoping this will work and are willing to help make it work. But we are faced with increasing levels of hate crimes, and increasing violent crime in general across the City. No one knows why the murder rates have gone down and one murder is one too many- and murder rates have gone down across the nation- even though DC still has one of the highest murder rates per 100,000 population in the nation.

    But it is hate crimes and violent crime that still impacts so many people day to day and creates a feeling of fear in many neighborhoods.

    It will take the MPD working closely with the community to help bring those numbers down and make people feel safe on the street and in their neighborhoods.

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