September 28, 2012 at 2:17 pm EDT | by Lou Chibbaro Jr.
Officers, activists recognized at police liaison reception
Gay and Lesbian Liaison Unit of the Metropolitan Police Department, GLLU, MPD, Sergeant Carlos Mejia, Assistant Chief Diane Groomes, DCTC, D.C. Trans Coalition, Jason Terry, gay news, Washington Blade, Dupont Circle

Assistant Chief Diane Groomes speaks to members of the community attending the Metropolitan Police Department Gay & Lesbian Liaison Unit meet-and-greet event. (Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

More than a dozen LGBT community activists and the five officers assigned to the department’s Gay and Lesbian Liaison Unit were awarded by D.C. police officials with a certificate of appreciation Thursday night recognizing their service to community.

Capt. Edward Delgado and Sgts. Carlos Mejia and Matt Mahl, who serve as supervisors for the Dupont Circle headquartered GLLU, handed out the certificates at an open house reception. The event, hosted by the GLLU, attracted more than 50 people from the community and about a dozen police officers and police officials, including Deputy Police Chief Diane Groomes.

“Thank you on behalf of the chief,” said Groomes, referring to Police Chief Cathy Lanier, who was unable to attend the event.

“I know we aren’t perfect. We have a ways to go,” Groomes said. “But I think overall, with the support of the community, we’re definitely getting better every day. So I appreciate all of your support for us and I look forward to working with you.”

Groomes and Delgado told the Blade that Sgt. Mahl, who had been detailed earlier this year to serve as the GLLU’s full-time supervisor, was temporarily assigned earlier this month to a special police robbery unit in response to an upsurge in robberies throughout the city, including “snatch-and-grab” cell phone robberies.

Mahl had worked on robbery investigations prior to his assignment with the GLLU.

The two said Mahl, who is gay, would be returning shortly to the GLLU where he will resume his duties as supervisor.

LGBT activists, including officials with the local group Gays and Lesbians Opposing Violence (GLOV), have expressed concern that Chief Lanier several years ago placed the GLLU under the supervision of a sergeant — Mejia — who also headed the Latino Liaison Unit, requiring that he divide his time between two important units.

While praising Mejia for doing an excellent job in juggling his time between the two units, a number of LGBT activists called on Lanier to assign a sergeant as the full-time supervisor of the GLLU. Lanier has said limited MPD resources prevented her from doing that until earlier this year, when she said she was able to detail Sgt. Mahl to head the unit.

In response to Groomes’ remarks, gay activist Peter Rosenstein told the GLLU reception that he has seen an improvement in both the GLLU’s work and the department’s overall response to LGBT community concerns over the past year or so.

“I speak personally but I think for a lot of the community,” Rosenstein said. “We appreciate under this mayor and under your direction and under the unit’s direction that there is a reinvigorated look at what’s going on in the LGBT community and once again a reinvigorated GLLU.”

Rosenstein added, “As you well know, there was a period of time when the community felt the attention wasn’t being given to the community. But I think most of us now believe that there is a new effort to get together, to work together to make the city a safer place to be. So thank you all from the community for what you all do.”

A.J. Singletary, the head of GLOV, and Ruby Corado, the transgender activist who operates an LGBT community center with an outreach to the Latino community, said they, too, have seen an improvement in the department’s and GLLU’s activities and communication with the LGBT community.

The current full-time GLLU members stationed at the GLLU headquarters office are Officers Joseph Morquecho, Zunnobia Hakir, Juanita Foreman, Kevin Johnson and Justin Markiewicz.

Among the community activists receiving the police certificate of appreciation were Jason Terry of the D.C. Trans Coalition; Earline Budd, Jeri Hughes and Brian Watson of Transgender Health Empowerment (THE);  Singletary of GLOV; Corado of Casa Ruby community center; June Crenshaw of Rainbow Response; and Savannah Wanzer of the Mayor’s LGBT Advisory Committee.

According to the MPD website, 91 officers assigned to one of the department’s seven police districts serve as part-time affiliate members of the GLLU. The affiliate program, created by Lanier, provides training officers assigned to the police districts to enable them to respond to calls on matters related to the GLLU in locations throughout the city.

In addition to the GLLU, the Special Liaison Division includes the Asian Liaison Unit, the Latino Liaison Unit and the Deaf and Hard of Hearing Liaison Unit.

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

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