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Police chief defends fight against anti-LGBT hate crimes

Lanier disputes claim that gay liaison unit ‘dying on vine’

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Cathy Lanier

D.C. Police Chief Cathy Lanier (Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

D.C. Police Chief Cathy Lanier told a D.C. Council hearing on Wednesday that the department was making progress in its fight against hate crimes and strongly disputed criticism by the head of the police union that the Gay and Lesbian Liaison Unit was “dying on the vine.”

Her testimony before the Council’s Committee on the Judiciary came after several other witnesses, including D.C. police union chair Kristopher Baumann and LGBT activists, expressed concern that she had seriously weakened the GLLU’s central office, which had once led efforts to fight anti-LGBT hate crimes.

Lanier said some critics have misconstrued her efforts to decentralize and expand the GLLU and the department’s other special liaison units as an effort to discontinue or cut back on the units’ central offices.

“This expansion has not only improved our response to these communities throughout the city, by providing service 24 hours a day, seven days a week,” she said. “But it has also improved our ability to provide consistent information to these communities, while ensuring that information about their needs is integrated into services in each patrol district.”

D.C. Council member Phil Mendelson (D-At-Large), who chairs the committee, said he called the hearing to assess the extent of the city’s hate crimes problem and efforts by the police to address the problem. Other Council members participating in the hearing included Jim Graham (D-Ward 1), Mary Cheh (D-Ward 3) and Muriel Bowser (D-Ward 4).

Graham said he agreed with activists that the GLLU as a whole has been diminished over the past several years. He praised Lanier for doing overall excellent work in fighting crime throughout the city but said she appears to be making changes at the GLLU without “true engagement” from the community the unit is supposed to represent.

“I feel this is slipping away,” Graham said. “It’s a serious loss … This is the message we’re getting.”

Lanier said she could have reached out more to the community on a few issues, including her decision earlier this year to name a civilian administrator as head of the Special Liaison Division, which oversees the GLLU and liaison units working with the Latino, Asian and deaf and hard of hearing communities. But she said members of the GLLU have joined her in expressing disappointment in claims by critics that the unit is not doing as good a job as it has in the past.

Police statistics have shown that D.C. has the nation’s highest rate of anti-LGBT hate crimes, with anti-LGBT bias related crimes making up as much as 70 percent of the city’s overall hate crimes.

Lanier acknowledged that the number of reported hate crimes against the LGBT community has increased significantly in recent years. However, she said it could not be determined whether the actual number of such crimes has increased or whether the increase is due to more people coming forward to report such crimes.

According to D.C. police statistics, in 2010, the total number of reported hate crimes in the city was 68. Out of that total, 35 were crimes targeting gays, lesbians or bisexuals and 10 targeting members of the transgender community.

In 2009, a total of 41 hate crimes were reported, with 30 said to be against gays, lesbians or bisexuals and five based on the victim’s gender identity or expression.

A total of 39 hate crimes were reported in the city in 2008, with 26 said to be against gays, lesbians, or bisexuals and four against transgender persons.

As of June 30 of this year, there were a total of 38 reported hate crimes, according to police data released this week. Out of that total, 14 were based on the victim’s sexual orientation and two were based on the victim’s gender identity or expression.

“It is important to note that because the number of these crimes is relatively low, small shifts in numbers can look disproportionately large in percentages,” Lanier said in her testimony. “Therefore those percentages should be interpreted carefully while also considering the raw numbers.”

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A.J. Singletary, president of the D.C. group Gays and Lesbians Opposing Violence, told the committee that Lanier and the department have taken some “laudatory measures” in recent years to combat hate crimes targeting the LGBT community.

But he said the department overall was not properly training officers to recognize and take reports on incidents of anti-LGBT bias that don’t involve a crime of violence but that could lead to violence.

“First, MPD is not documenting anti-LGBT bias incidents effectively, thereby endangering the community and impacting the use of vital resources to prevent hate crimes,” he said.

“Hate incidents – slurs, derogatory terms, or other similar actions – can be tracked and used to target areas of increasing problems across the city,” he told the committee. “We have anecdotal evidence of a disturbing increase in anti-LGBT incidents, including threats, harassment and intimidation.”

Singletary and other witnesses noted that police officials have encouraged citizens to report such incidents to police so that data can be compiled to monitor areas where hate crimes might surface.

“Despite this, GLOV is aware of numerous instances when MPD officers refused to take reports when called and even made the individual feel silly or petty for requesting that the incident be reported,” Singletary said.

Jason Terry, an official with the D.C. Trans Coalition, told the committee that many in the local transgender community lost confidence in police following a December 2010 incident in which an off-duty D.C. police officer assaulted a transgender woman on a downtown street. The woman, Chloe Moore, has accused the officer of assaulting her after she approached him to ask for a light for her cigarette.

The department’s Internal Affairs Division is currently investigating the incident.

Terry and D.C. transgender activist Jeri Hughes told the committee that police officers often assume incorrectly that transgender women, who report being harassed or assaulted because of their gender identity, are prostitutes.

GLOV members and other LGBT activists have complained that Lanier’s decision in 2009 to decentralize the GLLU by assigning affiliate members to the unit from each of the department’s seven police districts diminished the effectiveness of the unit’s central office, which is located in Dupont Circle.

At the time former Mayor Adrian Fenty appointed Lanier as police chief in 2009, there were seven to eight full-time GLLU officers assigned to the central office. The office, created by former Police Chief Charles Ramsey in 2000, became an internationally recognized police entity aimed at addressing issues involving the LGBT community.

Among other things, Ramsey gave GLLU officers full authority to investigate crimes and make arrests as well as to provide public information and outreach to the LGBT community.

Lanier has said she supports those efforts but wanted to expand the unit’s reach throughout the city. She assigned officers from the eight police districts to become affiliate GLLU officers who would continue to perform their regular duties in the districts while being on call to assume GLLU duties as the need arises in their respective districts.

Rick Rosendall, vice president of the Gay and Lesbian Activists Alliance, told the committee he and most other activists fully support the affiliate program. But Rosendall and other activists have said they strongly objected to what they believe has been Lanier’s removal of officers from the GLLU’s central office.

Sources familiar with the GLLU have told the Blade in recent years that the unit’s reputation within the department had diminished and other important units, like the homicide squad, had largely stopped calling on the GLLU for help in gay-related cases.

Lanier has disputed those claims, saying the central unit remains the hub of the GLLU. She told the Council hearing on Wednesday that affiliate members spend at least a month at the central office in a special training program.

She also told the hearing that there are now seven people assigned to the central GLLU office in addition to its part-time commander, Sgt. Carlos Mejia, who also serves as commander of the Latino Liaison Unit.

 

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3 Comments

3 Comments

  1. brian

    July 8, 2011 at 12:16 pm

    Chief Excuse-Maker? What “progress” against anti-LGBTQ hate crimes is Chief Lanier talking about?

    This is is the same-old, same-old set of vague excuses and responses we’ve been hearing from Chief Lanier for a number of years, now. This Chief has repeatedly blamed her critics in the LGBT community for “misconstruing” her actions regarding her ongoing degrading and dismantling of GLLU’s central office.

    But our eyes and other senses do not deceive us. GLLU officers– very obviously– do not have the visibility and presence in the LGBT community they had under Chief Charles Ramsey. Chief Lanier’s actions have never really matched her words regarding her so-called support of GLLU’s central unit.

    Right out of the gate in 2007, Lanier sought to dismantle and “decentralize” GLLU’s award-winning central unit. Outrage by the LGBT community, its leaders, plus Mayor Fenty’s concern would not permit Lanier to do that.

    Since then, Chief Lanier has been using a combination of abrupt, secretive command replacements and ‘death-by-a-thousand-cuts’ strategy, along with a so-called ‘expansion/ decentralization’ of highly dubious effectiveness to achieve her original objective.

    Just how many times do we have to hear this song-and-dance before we recognize that Chief Lanier is no friend of MPD’s GLLU and DC’s LGBT community?

    Consider this… Chiefs Lanier and Groomes have repeatedly claimed their “expansion” of GLLU-trained officers and sensitivity across MPD’s Districts has been effective. If that’s really true, how is it, just last fall, 5D’s (NE DC) Commander (then, Lamar Greene) was unaware of ANY GLLU-trained officers under his own command in 5D– with its growing LGBT population?

    I don’t necessarily fault Commander Greene for that. But it’s just another example of how Lanier’s real policy implementation does not match her rhetoric re. GLLU. Commander Greene was promoted to Assistant Chief of Police. However, inexplicably, Captain Delgado was abruptly demoted and secretly replaced by a *CIVILIAN* head of the (SLU) unit that commands GLLU.

    To those who understand ‘cop culture’– Chief Lanier could not have sent a stronger message throughout MPD of her contempt for GLLU and the other Special Liaison Units.

    And how much longer is the Mayor and some on our Council going to perpetuate the myth that Chief Lanier was responsible for reduction of violent crime in DC?

    It’s been widely reported that urban violent crime went down all across the nation in 2009 and 2010. Due credit ought to go to rank and file MPD officers (and their families and loved ones) who have had to work longer, more personally stressful hours. Of course those officers don’t get paid anywhere near the high salaries of MPD’s chiefs.

    Are DC’s LGBT residents any safer from hate crimes under Chief Lanier’s reign? No. Clearly not.

    And LGBT residents in DC likely have LESS trust in sympathetic and understanding MPD response if they report a hate crime now, than they did under Chief Ramsey and the GLLU of 2006– which Ramsey created and actively promoted.

    Both MPD and GLLU need a fresh direction and a new Chief of Police.

  2. Chocolatebearcub

    July 11, 2011 at 4:46 am

    GET RID OF HER!

  3. Moran

    May 9, 2012 at 5:16 pm

    Yes, one thing I condemn is discrimination from the gays and lesbians, who do not like deaf and hard of hearing people. I have experienced discrimination by gays because I am like deaf.

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17th Street High Heel Race draws large crowd

D.C. Mayor, three Council members, police chief mingle with drag queens

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34th annual High Heel Race. (Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

Close to 1,000 spectators turned out Tuesday night to watch D.C.’s 34th Annual 17th Street High Heel Race in which several dozen men dressed in drag and wearing colorful high heel shoes raced along a three-block stretch of 17th Street near Dupont Circle.

As she has in past years, D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser, whose office organizes the annual event, gave the official signal for the runners to start the race from a stage at the intersection of 17th and R streets, N.W. 

Joining the mayor on the stage was Japer Bowles, who Bowser recently named as director of the Mayor’s Office of LGBTQ Affairs, which plays the lead role in organizing the High Heel Race. 

Also appearing on stage after being introduced by Bowser were D.C. Council Chair Phil Mendelson (D-At-Large) and Council members Robert White (D-At-Large) and Brooke Pinto (D-Ward 2).

Bowser, who along with the three Council members delivered brief remarks before the start of the race, said the event highlights the city’s diversity and resilience coming after over a year of coping with the COVID-19 pandemic.

“What we want the world to know – that even in a pandemic, even when we had to trim the budget, we stayed focused on how we can make life better for our LGBTQ community,” Bowser told the crowd. “And we’re going to keep on doing it,” she said. “We’re investing in making sure everybody in our community is accepted and safe.”

D.C. Police Chief Robert Contee, who walked along the three-block section of 17th Street before the race began, was greeted warmly by bystanders, some of whom called out his name to welcome him to what has become the city’s largest Halloween celebration.

“This is a great event,” Contee told the Washington Blade. “I enjoy coming out to be among D.C. residents and all who find our D.C. culture,” he said. “It’s just a great evening, so we’re happy to be out here supporting our community.”

Members of the D.C. police LGBT Liaison Unit were among the police contingent on duty at the event and overseeing the closing of the streets surrounding 17th Street.

Like past years, many of the race participants and dozens of others dressed in Halloween costumes paraded up and down 17th Street beginning at 6:30 p.m., more than two hours before the start of the race, which was scheduled to begin at 9 p.m.  

However, the mayor this year gave the signal to start the race at about 8:35 p.m. Although a large number of drag runners participated in the race, some who planned to join the race didn’t make it to the starting line in time because they expected the race to begin at 9 p.m. as advertised, according to people in the crowd who knew those who missed the race.

To ensure that everyone had an opportunity to participate, Bowles and others from the mayor’s office agreed to hold a second race about a half hour after the first one. The number of participants in the second race appeared to be about the same as those who joined the first race, indicating many of the drag participants ran twice.

“This is a special treat,” said one bystander. “We got to see two races instead of one.” 

The High Heel Race was cancelled last year due to restrictions related to the COVID pandemic. Many in the crowd watching the race on Tuesday night said they were delighted the city decided to go ahead with the event this year at a time when other large events continue to be canceled or postponed.

Also similar to past years when the High Heel Race took place, the restaurants and bars that line 17th Street were filled on Tuesday night, including the gay bars JR.’s and Windows as well as the longtime LGBTQ-friendly Annie’s Paramount Steakhouse.

Prior to the mayor’s arrival, gay local radio and TV personality Jimmy Alexander of DCW 50 TV served as host to a drag show and costume contest on the stage. DCW 50 also set up and hosted a separate stage on the sidewalk next to JR.’s bar in which race participants and others dressed in costumes were invited to have their pictures taken and provided with copies of the photos of themselves.

“I think it’s amazing,” Bowser told the Blade after the completion of the first race. “It’s good to be back. It was tough missing a year of activities,” she said referring to the business shutdowns brought about by the pandemic. “We had a lot of great, beautiful racers. And so, I’m really excited about it.”

To see more photos from this event, click here.

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Gay attorney’s plans to run for Del. Senate foiled by redistricting

Activists say move will ‘dilute’ LGBTQ vote

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Mitch Crane, gay news, Washington Blade
Gay Democratic activist Mitch Crane. (Photo courtesy Crane)

Plans by Delaware gay attorney and Democratic Party activist Mitch Crane to run for a seat in the Delaware State Senate in a district that included areas surrounding the town of Lewes, where Crane lives, and Rehoboth Beach ended abruptly this week when state officials approved a redistricting plan that removes Crane’s residence from the district.

The seat for which Crane planned to run is in Delaware’s 6th Senate District which, in addition to Lewes and Rehoboth, includes the towns of Dewey Beach, Harbeson, Milton, and surrounding areas, according to the state Senate’s website. 

The seat is currently held by Ernesto “Ernie” Lopez, a moderate Republican who became the first Hispanic American elected to the Delaware Senate in 2012. Lopez announced in July that he would not seek re-election in 2022. 

The redistricting plan, which was approved by leaders of the Democratic-controlled Delaware General Assembly, places the section of the Lewes postal district where Crane lives into the 19th Senate District. Crane said that district is in a heavily Republican and conservative part of the state dominated by supporters of President Donald Trump who remain Trump supporters.

Under Delaware law, changes in the district lines of state Senate and House districts, which takes place every 10 years following the U.S. Census count, are decided by the Delaware General Assembly, which is the state legislative body.

Crane told the Washington Blade that neither he nor any other Democrat would have a realistic chance of winning the State Senate seat next year in the 19th District.

“Jesus could not win in that district if he was a Democrat,” said Crane.

Crane said a Democratic candidate could win next year in the reconfigured 6th Senate District now that incumbent Lopez will not be seeking re-election.

The Cape Gazette, the Delaware newspaper, reported in an Oct. 22 story that Crane was one of at least two witnesses that testified at a two-day virtual hearing held Oct. 18-19 by a State Senate committee, that the proposed redistricting would dilute the LGBTQ vote in the 6th District and the draft proposal should be changed.

 “The proposed lines remove a significant percentage of the LGBTQ residents from the current 6th District where most of such residents of southern Delaware live and place them in the 19th District which has a smaller such population,” the Cape Gazette quoted Crane telling the committee. “By doing so, it dilutes the impact of the gay community which shares political beliefs,” the newspaper quoted him as saying.

“The proposed lines dilute the voting power of the LGBTQ community in addition to others who respect diversity,” the Cape Gazette quoted 6th District resident Sandy Spence as telling the committee. 

In an Oct. 10 email sent to potential supporters before the redistricting plan was approved, Crane said he believes he has the experience and record that make him a strong candidate for the state Senate seat. He is a former chair of the Sussex County Democratic Party, where Rehoboth and Lewes are located; and he currently serves as an adjunct professor at Delaware State University’s graduate school, where he teaches American Governance and Administration.

He is a past president of the Delaware Stonewall PAC, a statewide LGBTQ advocacy group, and he’s the state’s former Deputy Insurance Commissioner.

 “I intend to focus on smart growth in Sussex County; work on the problems of homelessness and the need for affordable housing; and assuring that this district receives its fair portion of tax dollars,” he said in his Oct. 10 email message announcing his candidacy.

Crane said he posted a Facebook message on Oct. 26 informing supporters that the redrawn district lines removed him from the district, and he is no longer a candidate.

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MSNBC’s Capehart to host SMYAL’s Fall Brunch Nov. 6

Ashland Johnson to serve as keynote speaker

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Gay journalist Jonathan Capehart will host SMYAL’s Fall Brunch. (Blade file photo by Michael Key)

Pulitzer Prizing-winning gay journalist Jonathan Capehart, the anchor of MSNBC’s “Sunday Show with Jonathan Capehart,” will serve as host for the 24th Annual SMYAL Fall Brunch scheduled for Saturday, Nov. 6, at D.C.’s Marriott Marquis Hotel.

The annual Fall Brunch serves as one of the largest fundraising events for SMYAL, which advocates and provides services for LGBTQ youth in the D.C. metropolitan area. 

“Each year, a community of advocates, changemakers, and supporters comes together at the Fall Brunch to raise much-needed funds to support and expand critical programs and services for queer and trans youth in the DMV area,” a statement released by the organization says.

The statement says attorney and former Division I women’s collegiate basketball athlete Ashland Johnson will be the keynote speaker at the SMYAL Fall Brunch. Johnson founded the sports project called The Inclusion Playbook, which advocates for racial justice and LGBTQ inclusion in sports.

Other speakers include Zahra Wardrick, a SMYAL program participant and youth poet; and Leandra Nichola, a parent of attendees of Little SMYALs, a program that SMYAL says provides support for “the youngest members of the LGBTQ community” at ages 6-12. The SMYAL statement says Nichola is the owner and general manager of the Takoma Park, Md., based café, bar, retail, and bubble tea shop called Main Street Pearl.

According to the statement, the SMYAL Fall Brunch, including a planned silent auction, will be live streamed through SMYAL’s Facebook page for participants who may not be able to attend in person. For those attending the event in person, proof of COVID-19 vaccination will be required, and masks will also be required for all attendees when not actively eating or drinking, the statement says.

The statement says that for attendees and supporters, the Fall Brunch is “a community celebration of how your support has not only made it possible for SMYAL to continue to serve LGBTQ youth through these challenging times, it’s allowed our programs to grow and deepen.”

Adds the statement, “From affirming mental health support and housing to fostering community spaces and youth leadership training, we will continue to be there for queer and trans youth together.”

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