In an unannounced action, D.C. Police Chief Cathy Lanier last month appointed a civilian member of the department to head the police division that oversees the Gay & Lesbian Liaison Unit and three other liaison units serving the Latino, Asian and hearing impaired communities.
Lanier’s decision to name Enrique Rivera, a 15-year civilian veteran on the force, to replace Capt. Edward Delgado as director of the Special Liaison Division has troubled GLLU officers, according to two sources familiar with the GLLU and the other liaison units.
Rivera, while well liked by the officers who know him, has most recently coordinated the department’s foreign language access program and has no direct experience in investigating crimes or making arrests, the sources said. Thus his role as supervisor of the GLLU and the other liaison units that perform police duties could be a signal that the importance and effectiveness of the units are being diminished, according to the sources.
“He’s a bureaucrat,” said one of the sources, who spoke on condition of not being identified. “He’s in charge of bureaucratic programming. So it sounds like again the chief has kind of moved the liaison units farther from her.”
Deputy Police Chief Diane Groomes disputes that assessment, saying Rivera’s appointment coincided with Lanier’s decision to elevate the Special Liaison Branch to the Special Liaison Division, with an expanded portfolio.
“His new role as director of Special Liaison Division includes managing the Special Liaison units, Hate Crimes unit and Language Access Program,” Groomes told the Blade in an e-mail.
“[A]ll of these units are related to working with diverse communities and addressing crimes/complaints as well as coordinating outreach services,” she said.
Groomes added that Rivera has a “very impressive background,” noting that he has been involved in community outreach programs for the D.C. government for more than 20 years.
His biography posted on the police website says Rivera became a civilian member of the department in 1996, when he became an executive assistant in the Office of the Chief of Police. His duties included report writing, program planning and development, program administration and budget development.
He served later as program manager for the Policing for Prevention Division’s Community Outreach Unit, where, among other things, he supervised the department’s Ride Along Program, Speakers Bureau and International Visitors Program, his biography says.
He assumed duties as the department’s Language Access Coordinator in 2004, it says, which involves monitoring efforts to ensure that people with limited English proficiency have access to police services and programs. It says Rivera will continue these duties while serving as director of the Special Liaison Division.
Chris Farris, a member and former co-chair of the local police monitoring group Gays and Lesbians Opposing Violence (GLOV), said the group would discuss the Rivera appointment at its monthly meeting scheduled for Thursday night at the D.C. LGBT community center.
“GLOV will be looking at this very carefully,” he said. “I don’t have an opinion right now on the civilian versus uniformed director. But the lack of consultation of the community on this is a concern.”
Groomes said Rivera has the status of a Grade 16 in D.C. government service, which is considered upper management status and a level above that of the rank of captain, the rank held by his predecessor. She said Rivera reports to the Assistant Chief of Patrol Services and to the Chief of Police.
“This does not signify any downgrade of the Special Liaison units at all,” Groomes said. “They have a new manager who will bring his community and Police Department experience to enhance this division.”
Rivera’s appointment comes at a time when sources familiar with the GLLU have said the unit has not been called on for help by other police investigatory units, like the homicide squad, as frequently as it has in the past.
According to Groomes, various police agencies and units seek assistance from the GLLU for a “multitude of reasons,” including investigations of homicides involving members of the LGBT community.