August 8, 2011 at 7:46 am EDT | by Lou Chibbaro Jr.
7 officers could be fired over anti-lesbian attack

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

D.C. Police Chief Cathy Lanier told LGBT activists that as many as seven police officers could be fired for refusing to take a report for a hate-related attack against five lesbians on July 30 near the Columbia Heights Metro station.

In a private meeting on Aug. 4 with officials of the local group Gays and Lesbians Opposing Violence, Lanier called the conduct by the officers “lazy policing,” according A.J. Singletary, the group’s chair.

“She said they’re going to be doing a thorough investigation but that type of offense can be punishable by termination,” Singletary quoted Lanier as saying. “So she laid it on the table that it’s possible that they may be fired. That depends on what the investigation determines,” he said.

Two of the five victims in the attack told the Blade that a man repeatedly called the women “dyke bitches” before he and another man punched each of them in the face and body. The women said the anti-lesbian name-calling and the attack began after they politely spurned the men’s attempt to “flirt” with them as they walked along the 3100 block of 14th Street, N.W. at about 3 a.m.

The first suspect became enraged, the two women said, after one of the women said she was with her girlfriend, effectively identifying them as lesbians.

The police department’s Gay & Lesbian Liaison Unit did take a report of the incident three days later, on Aug. 2, after the mother of one of the women called police to complain that officers on the scene of the attack had refused to take such a report. The report lists the incident as an anti-lesbian hate crime.

Yazzmen Morse, one of the attack victims, said as many as seven police officers arrived in four police cars after a bystander observing the incident apparently called 911. Morse said the officers apprehended and detained one of the two male suspects in the case but released the man a short time later, much to the dismay of the five women.

“I was appalled when I heard about the incident and the conduct of the officers,” Lanier said in a statement she released on Aug. 5. “Obviously, this is not the kind of service that the Metropolitan Police Department provides,” she said. “I have spoken with victims in this case and I want to assure them and the public that the incident and the conduct of the officers are being investigated thoroughly.”

A.J. Singletary of GLOV (Washington Blade file photo by Michael Key)

Singletary said Lanier also told GLOV officials at the Aug. 4 meeting that police were close to obtaining warrants for the arrest of the two suspects and that arrests would be made possibly within days.

Singletary said that while GLOV officials don’t dispute Lanier’s characterization of the officers’ conduct as lazy policing, he and former GLOV Chair Chris Farris asked Lanier to look into whether anti-gay sentiment on the part of the officers played a role in the case.

“We conveyed that we also want the investigation to consider if there’s something beyond just laziness there, if there was homophobia on the part of the responding officers and if that had something to do with this as well,” Singletary said.

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

  • “In a private meeting on Aug. 11 with officials of the local group Gays and Lesbians Opposing Violence, Lanier called the conduct by the officers “lazy policing,” according A.J. Singletary, the group’s chairperson.”

    Correct date of meeting.

  • Thanks for this update, Lou. I note that the story says the meeting took place on August 11, but since today is August 8, I’m wondering when the meeting actually took place.

  • Good reporting. However, I am quite sure the meeting didn’t take place on August 11th.

  • This appears to be a case of biased policing. There used to be an MPD task force on that, but Chief Lanier discontinued it about three years ago.

  • The Chief does not elaborate on the status of the officers at this time. Have they been placed on administrative leave while the investigation takes place? Or are they still on the streets in a position to treat more people like they are accused of treating these 5 women? They should be on administrative leave with pay pending the investigation.
    This is an important time between the MPD and the Gay and Lesbian community. We have to see now how well the MPD moves on a resolve to this issue that can and will be acceptable to the community.

  • “Obviously, this is not the kind of service that the Metropolitan Police Department provides.” – Chief Lanier.

    Wrong. I guess it IS the kind of service the DC police provide, since there are five victims, one passerby who called 911, one assailant was detained but released, seven policemen on scene and the police had to be intimidated into taking a report days later. There should be enough of a paper trail alone to establish the facts.

    Lazy? Just LAZY? How about adding: unprofessional, homophobic, uncaring, reprehensible, vile, irresponsible and dereliction of duty for starters. Maybe there should be another, ABETTING a Hate Crime. You don’t have to take the risk of committing a hate crime yourself if you can comfortably let others do it for you.

    Fire the cops and get rid of their chief.

  • The Metropolitan Police Department is laden with both white and black bigots that would probably like to too be the perpetrators of these crimes. I’d like to see the Justice Department investigate this particular incident because it’s definitely a case of denying these women their civil rights.

  • Still sounds canned to me, Keith. More MPD/HQ obfuscation? More MPD/HQ talking points? Another trial balloon?

    Chief Lanier’s ‘off-with-their-heads’ management style is well-known among MPD’s rank and file. Likewise, her telegraphed contempt for GLLU/ SLU. Add to them the city’s acknowledged LGBT civil rights and public safety activists.

    If Chief Lanier wants to fire 7 MPD officers, perhaps in fear of losing their jobs for following what has become her institutional discriminatory policing practices over 4 years+, that’s just fine in this instance. But she should fire herself, as well.

    • Brian, I totally disagree, as there must first be a proper investigation. Rest assured that if proven guilty of not carrying out their duty as they should have they’re be fired or demoted. Lanier is an excellent Chief of police and clearly when you are this good, with high standards, there will always be some that won’t work at the level they are expected. Fairness counts in this case and due cause must prevail.
      Lanier has set high standards and every officer by now should realize this. If they don’t work at the level expected of them, they then deserve not to be around.
      There is a lot that goes into conducting a proper investigation of these allegations. Many officers, supervisors,and victims to interview. Tapes to listen to, reports to be written. It has to be done to standards and I have all the faith that it will be handled properly and in due time.

  • Let’s just get the ball rolling by making a few phone calls:

    Chief of Police Cathy L. Lanier
    (202) 727-4218

    Office of Police Complaints
    (202) 727-3838

    Mayor Vincent C. Gray
    (202) 727-6300

  • Why does this further establish what an ass and liar Cat cimes across as? What fool other than herwould end the task force to begin with? The more bad press she receives, the stupider she looks. ALL of her lies will be made plain. Which day was it, the 8th or 11th? Can’t she get any of her fairy tales together?!

  • Thanks, blue-heron. Your larger suggestion is excellent.

    However, complaining to this Chief of Police — whose credibility has rightly long been suspect by DC’s LGBT community — is rather like suggesting we chickens complain to the area’s chief fox.

    That applies to complaining to the Chief’s *Office of Police Complaints*, as well.

    Concerned LGBT residents should understand that MPD is a *chain-of-command* organization. It is run, like our armed forces, top down, by its Chief of Police. Many believe MPD has been managed by this Chief with confusing messages, and an erratic iron fist — creating, with blatant fear-mongering, low morale throughout MPD.

    Moreover, IMO, this Chief has deliberately all but killed GLLU’s core unit over years in office– pretty much exactly as the Chief wanted to do when she began her tenure in 2007. It has been death by a thousand bureaucratic stings.

    Not stopping with GLLU, just months ago, the Chief also quietly and inexplicably replaced a capable MPD *CAPTAIN* of GLLU’s parent unit, SLU, with a *CIVILIAN*, having no policing and arrest experience — and (just as importantly) likely no serious credibility among MPD rank and file officers. (See the Blade’s article of May 26, 2011.)

    Any of us can imagine being a young, new, straight MPD police officer, looking to a 20-year career with MPD, and trying to do the right thing. But then that rookie officer is warned by MPD buddies of the Chief of Police’s apparent disdain for GLLU and her incredible downgrading of SLU’s command from a CAPTAIN to a civilian.

    Again, these actions were deliberate by this Chief. IMO, they have sent, from MPD’s highest levels, a not-so-subtle, but terrible message throughout MPD. It is a clear message of disdain and disrespect for GLLU and SLU– and by implication, the LGBT residents and vistors said police units were created to serve and protect.

    Rather than using an existing, world-renowned, award-winning GLLU unit to seriously protect DC’s LGBT community from assaults, hate crimes and murder, this Chief has inexplicably been hell-bent on destroying GLLU as a credible, effective policing unit. IMO, this Chief has, through her own mistaken policies and direction, fostered an atmosphere of fear of retribution within MPD, as well as one of de facto discrimination, including de facto institutional homophobia and transphobia.

    So we ought to give great pause to complaining to this Chief of Police — and the MPD complaint office under this Chief’s command.

    How do we know these 7 MPD officers did not think they were doing what their Chief of Police and her Partrol Services Assistant Chief expected them to do? Indeed, how do we know how well LGBT police officers within MPD are being treated under this Chief’s command? Why aren’t LGBT officers being actively recruited to train their fellow officers in LGBT sensitivity and patrolling?

    The fact is, the buck truly stops with Mayor Gray and the Council. No buffers, please. The public safety of LGBT citizens and LGBT visitors to this capital city, once again deserve THEIR direct, unfiltered attention and oversight.

    More to blue-heron’s larger suggestion, when I get the time.

  • Chief Lanier: if in fact justice was denied to the five females (their sexuality has zilch to do with anything other than as an enhancement as a hate crime), then the credibility of your dept seems to be at near zero. This need not remain this way. It is patently un-American to treat crime victims as less than worthy of receiving justice, especially victims of violence. My hunch is that these perps at first might have thought that the females were trans….they certainly match rough descriptions of the suspects involved recently in transgender crimes. Follow through on this is critical. I am transgender and have served in L.E. at the military, state, and county levels. My dream is to return to L.E. as a female in the near future. Also, especially now, it is crucial that the gay/lesbian task force that was in place be reconvened ASAP. It never should have been disbanded and proof is of the LGBT hate crimes that are occurring that have now resulted in murder.

    And, if you are interested in recruiting a trans officer, hey let me know! I am thrilled to see a female police chief! Really I am. As a trans female that began transitioning in hospital security, I was amazed at how I quickly de-escalated many disturbances by being tough but female sweet. It worked like a charm. In fact, it made the hospital a much safer place. Being female comes naturally and men at their worst responded to me no different than any female because unlike the male security officers, they didn’t feel challenged to compete.

    Please focus on LGBT hate crimes at D.C…and if you need an able-bodied trans officer…I am right here!

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