September 2, 2010 at 6:48 pm EST | by Lou Chibbaro Jr.
Activists call on Fenty to ‘restore’ police liaison unit

Several local LGBT organizations have sent Mayor Adrian Fenty an open letter asking him to overrule the city’s police chief, Cathy Lanier, by directing her to upgrade the headquarters staff at the police department’s Gay & Lesbian Liaison Unit.

Gays and Lesbians Opposing Violence, the D.C. Center for the LGBT Community, the Gay and Lesbian Activists Alliance, and the Gertrude Stein Democratic Club cited in the Aug. 26 letter a recent surge in anti-LGBT assaults in the city as demonstrating the need for strengthening the GLLU through an expanded staff.

“In light of this continuing history of violence against members of our community, we seek your immediate attention to fully restore the staffing levels of the GLLU to six full-time officers,” the groups said in the letter.

“Further, we ask that the unit be led by a full-time officer devoted to these duties with the authority to report directly to Chief Lanier. It is our hope that a restored GLLU will serve as a more effective liaison between the LGBT community and MPD,” the letter says.

The letter emerged from an Aug. 26 town hall meeting on anti-LGBT violence sponsored by the D.C. Center. Several people attending the meeting expressed support for a suggestion by gay activist Peter Rosenstein that activists stage a sit-in protest in Fenty’s office to dramatize the need for immediate action on his part to strengthen the GLLU.

Rosenstein said this week that he has no immediate plans for a mayoral protest or sit-in but said such an action would be considered sometime later.

GLOV co-chairs Kelly Pickard and Joe Montoni briefed town hall meeting attendees on some of the recent incidents of anti-LGBT violence, including about a half-dozen incidents in the Dupont Circle area near several gay bars.  The two said they were especially troubled over the murder last month of gay federal worker Delando King, who was stabbed to death in his apartment near Massachusetts Avenue and 10th Street, N.W.

Police have charged a 24-year-old D.C. man with first-degree murder in connection with the case, and court documents filed by police say King appears to have invited his attacker home after meeting him in a gay bar.

GLOV co-chair Montoni said the group believes King’s murder should be listed as a hate crime, even though police have said the motive appears to have been robbery. GLOV praised police investigators for working with the GLLU to make an arrest in the case within a week of the murder.

The GLLU currently has four full-time officers, an increase from two years ago, when the unit’s staff dropped to just one or two officers due to attrition and a decision by Lanier to restructure and decentralize it.

Lanier has said budget cuts and the need for more officers on street patrol duty forced her to reduce the number of officers at the GLLU’s headquarters office in Dupont Circle from its high point in 2007 of six full-time officers and a full-time sergeant who served as its supervisor. The current GLLU supervisor, Sgt. Carlos Mejia, divides his duties between the GLLU and the department’s Latino Liaison Unit.

With the backing of Fenty, Lanier decentralized the GLLU and three other specialized police units working with the Latino, Asian American, and deaf and hard of hearing communities by establishing affiliate members of the units in each of the department’s seven police districts.

Officials with GLOV and other LGBT activists have expressed general support for the affiliate program, in which officers assigned to regular patrol duties are trained to respond to calls involving LGBT-related crimes. Lanier said there are currently about a dozen GLLU affiliate members in addition to the four full-time members.

But GLOV and other local LGBT groups have expressed concern that the affiliate members don’t have the time or expertise to handle all of the LGBT-related calls for police help, including calls related to hate crimes.

“Having affiliate officers trained to recognize and respond to LGBT crimes in every district is admirable in intent,” the groups said in their letter to Fenty. “In practice, however, not having officers dedicated to the GLLU full-time has led to, in our opinion, diminished effectiveness in recognizing and responding to bias crimes. We ask that you fully restore staffing to the GLLU and grant the officer in charge with direct reporting to Chief Lanier.”

The mayor’s office did not respond to a request for comment by press time.

In an interview with the Blade two weeks ago, Fenty said he has full confidence in Lanier’s handling of the GLLU restructuring, saying she has succeeded in reducing overall crime rates in the city during her tenure as chief.

“You want law enforcement putting together strategy for keeping people safe,” Fenty said. “You don’t want civilians and you especially don’t want politicians to be the ones who are developing those strategies. And I think Chief Lanier has done a great job doing that.”

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

  • Fenty’s approach to the GLBT community has been arrogant and cavalier. Folks might not remember but he refused to use the word ‘hate’ crime, instead using his own term excessively violent. Last year he also refused to meet with GLOV as he viewed that as showing the GLBT community special attention. Ultimately because of so much violence and pressure from his own police force, he did. No one had to convince him though to show up for a photo opportunity when DC was applying to host the gay games. He was front and center then. And sure hiring Shannon Hader was a great decision. But was has Fenty done about HIV/AIDS? It is an epidemic and he should be having weekly press conferences on what the city is doing. Sure folks give him credit for improving city services. That should be the floor of what a mayor does. I guess DC residents have such low expectations that when a mayor actually does one thing, we celebrate. How sad. It seems like he doesn’t have the common sense to know how to lead the city and now only that he is losing in the polls is he reaching out. To me that is disgusting. I know we are putting a lot of hope in Vincent Gray…but from my perspective what is there to lose. Fenty has done nothing for us so anything Gray does will be an improvement. And Fenty it’s also disgusting that you are trying to take credit for gay marriage. It would have happened without you.

  • If as Fenty says about Chief Lanier that she has “succeeded in reducing overall crime rates in the city” and if there hasn’t been a proportionate reduction in crimes against Gays, then what does this say about Laniers Leadership, and of Fentys?

    Gray will be under pressure from Anti-Gays just as Fenty is. What are the SPECIFICS that Gray will do, and especially when Gays are under a rash of attacks? What is he doing Right Now? City Council is the Ultimate Controller of the city. The best predictor of future behavior is past behavior. Nothing now will mean Nothing later.

  • MPD, 5DCAC Offers LGBT Residents Empty Promises, Foot-dragging

    Systemic Anti-LGBT Bias at MPD’s Fifth District (5D) and Its Fifth District Citizens’ Advisory Council (5DCAC) Prove Plan to ‘Expand’ GLLU to Districts Not Effective…

    MPD Police Chief Cathy Lanier’s policy to expand GLLU training– and presumably, achieve EFFECTIVE LGBT community policing and sensitivity throughout all of MPD’s 7 District stations– is clearly not having a meaningful result in MPD’s 5D (NE DC).

    Both 5D Commander Lamar Greene and 5DCAC Chairman, Robert Brannum are now backpedaling– if not in full retreat– from their promises to 5D’s LGBT residents to provide a meaningful GLLU presentation at the September 5DCAC meeting. That was to include an introduction to SLU and GLLU policing, unique aspects of GLLU policing, what hate crimes are/ are not, religious and speech issues, as well as specific hate crime and other crime prevention advice for LGBT residents.

    5D’s/5DCAC’s promises were made in the wake of homophobic remarks made publicly by one of 5DCAC’s own, high-ranking board members in August. In recent weeks, though, it has become clear that 5D LGBT residents and their unique public safety concerns are not welcome at 5DCAC meetings. 5DCAC’s systemic, anti-LGBT bias is now being swept under the rug through 5D meeting manipulation and attendance suppression tactics.

    5D/5DCAC is relegating GLLU to a greatly abbreviated “speech” of as little as 15 minutes and a single GLLU “speaker.” Moreover, Brannum has ignored repeated requests for the most basic meeting information. So even with its gutted GLLU content, that prevents early and multiple announcements of the 5DCAC meeting.

    This is an attempt to suppress LGBT 5DCAC meeting turnout by limiting reliable, effective meeting notification and promotion to just one week or less. If 5D LGBT residents don’t know about the meeting in a timely fashion, 5D LGBT residents simply can’t attend it.

    Backpedaling even more, last Thursday, Brannum strongly implied GLLU’s greatly shortened speech could even be cancelled altogether by the 5DCAC executive board. 5D is not serious about dealing with systemic homophobia on its main civilian advisory board.

    The GLLU presentation to 5D should be postponed to its October meeting, and a full 90 minutes should be allotted for a presentation at the beginning of that 5DCAC meeting, with plenty of time built-in for attendees’ Q&A. 5D and 5DCAC should work promptly and closely with 5D LGBT activists and citywide LGBT stakeholders alike, to make this happen. And a reliable agenda, not subject to arbitrary time reduction, should be published at least 4 weeks prior to the meeting. Anything less by 5D and 5DCAC at this point, is simply not credible.

    Whatever Chief Lanier’s policy intent in cutting the central GLLU and “expanding” its District affiliates– sensitivity to the LGBT community’s unique policing needs is certainly not getting through to MPD’s top people at 5D and 5DCAC.

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