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.”