February 27, 2013 at 6:29 pm EST | by Lou Chibbaro Jr.
Trans group: D.C. hate crimes review biased toward police
Cathy Lanier, MPD, Metropolitan Police Department, gay news, Washington Blade

D.C. Police Chief Cathy Lanier

More than 1,500 pages of private email correspondence from D.C. Police Chief Cathy Lanier related to the work of the city’s Hate Crimes Review Task Force show that the Task Force may be biased in favor of the police and may not present an impartial assessment of police handling of hate crimes, according to the D.C. Trans Coalition.

In written testimony submitted on Wednesday to the D.C. Council’s Committee on the Judiciary and Public Safety, DCTC disclosed it obtained the Lanier email correspondence through a Freedom of Information Act request earlier this year.

DCTC’s testimony says much of the email correspondence is between Lanier and David Friedman, director of the Anti-Defamation League’s Washington regional office, who serves as chair of the Hate Crimes Review Task Force.

“Our concern is that the ADL-led task force is a publicity stunt rather than a good-faith effort at making progress,” the DCTC statement says.

Lanier and Friedman dispute the DCTC’s assessment, saying they expect the task force to provide an independent review of the department’s response to anti-LGBT hate crimes and to make recommendations on how the response can be improved.

“It is a shame that the D.C. Trans Coalition is attacking the work of this group before they even issue their report and recommendations,” Lanier told the Washington Blade in a statement.

Lanier’s office announced last June that she enlisted the ADL, a nationally recognized group that fights prejudice and discrimination, to help the department assess how it investigates and reports hate crimes. The announcement came at a time when LGBT activists raised concerns over the police handling of hate crimes targeting the LGBT community, especially the transgender community.

The police announcement said that at ADL’s invitation, the Human Rights Campaign, the National Center for Transgender Equality, the Leadership Conference on Civil Rights, and two university professors considered experts on hate violence agreed to join ADL as members of the task force.

DCTC says in its testimony submitted to the D.C. Council that the email correspondence between Lanier and Friedman suggests a bias exists that the task force may not be impartial.

“We received the [FOIA] results last month, five month late, only to discover evidence that the independent review isn’t really independent at all,” DCTC says in its testimony.

Freedman “appears to be a close personal friend of Chief Lanier,” the testimony says. “Further, Lanier personally approved the membership of the review task force,” a development DCTC says raises questions about its ability to make an impartial assessment of the police department’s handling of hate crimes targeting the LGBT community.

The DCTC testimony says the group learned last week at a private task force meeting held at offices of Casa Ruby, a D.C. LGBT community center with an outreach to the Latino community, that the task force will submit its findings to Chief Lanier to give her a chance to respond.

DCTC member Jason Terry told the Blade on Wednesday that a task force representative told activists attending the Casa Ruby meeting that it would be up to Lanier to decide when or if the report should be released to the public and the community.

One of the email exchanges DCTC included in its testimony, which is dated Nov. 3, 2011, shows Friedman mentioning in a lighthearted way that Lanier’s high performance ratings in a public opinion poll of 80 percent may be equivalent to a “B” on a report card.

“Actually the last Clarus poll was 84 percent. Am I slipping?” Lanier said in her response.

“Wouldn’t worry,” Friedman said in his response. “The only people who don’t like you have outstanding warrants.”

Replied Lanier: “That David is one of the many reasons I love you…So quick.”

In a phone interview on Wednesday afternoon, Friedman told the Blade his remark about outstanding warrants was a joke. He also noted that his Nov. 3 email exchange with Lanier that DCTC quoted took place at least a month before Lanier informed him of her plans for the task force and asked him to create it.

“Yes, I am lucky to call David a friend, as are many law enforcement leaders in the country,” Lanier said in her statement to the Blade. “He is a highly respected professional dedicated to making communities throughout the country safe from crime motivated by hate.”

LGBT activists who know Friedman have said he and the ADL’s D.C. regional office have been strong and outspoken advocates for LGBT rights for many years.

“We’re very proud of that,” Friedman said. “We’re proud of our leadership on hate crimes on the local and national level. And I hope that people will feel when this process is done that the task force contributed significantly to protecting the LGBT community from hate crimes and to strengthening the relationship between the LGBT community and the MPD.”

One task force member, who spoke on condition of not being identified, said the DCTC appears to have made a “premature judgment” in assessing whether the task force is biased or whether the outcome of the task force’s work would be biased.

HRC spokesperson Paul Guequierre said in a statement that ADL asked HRC to join the task force because of HRC’s “extensive work on hate crimes prevention legislation at both the state and federal levels.” He said HRC saw its participation in the task force as an opportunity to make sure “there was a fair process” in assessing the police handling of hate crimes in D.C.

“HRC is committed to ensuring that law enforcement respond swiftly and appropriately to incidents of bias crimes without further victimizing the LGBT community,” he said.

Friedman acknowledged that it was he who told people attending the task force community meeting at Casa Ruby’s that the task force’s findings and recommendations would be delivered to Lanier.

“What I said at that meeting was that the chief asked us to review the MPD handling of hate crimes and its relationship with the LGBT community was to be reviewed,” he said. “So obviously we’re going to give her first the report and our findings. She asked for this. And I have every reason to expect – I think all of us would want – these findings to be made public.”

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

  • I spot a bit of illogic here. On one hand, we are told that DCTC is unfairly judging a report before it even comes out. On the other, we are told the decision whether to release it to the public will be made by the Chief. So she might not release it at all? Thank you, Your Highness. As for David Friedman’s “joke” about outstanding warrants, how in the world is that funny or apt? I was interviewed months ago for that report, and would like to see it already.

  • mpd’s cozy coverups continued
    Last summer, I wrote here:
    “This task force appears to be a legitimate effort, with sterling national participants. However, closer scrutiny reveals that it is also another public relations effort *BY* our chief of police, *FOR* our chief of police.”
    Many thanks to Jason Terry and DCTC for drilling down to further expose Lanier’s sham hate crimes “task force” — apparently, still OF, BY and FOR the public relations of Cathy Lanier.

    Lanier now freely admits she’s “lucky to call David a friend.” But Lanier and her hand-picked, ‘unbiased’ Task Force boss, David Friedman, are a bit more than just friends.

    Lanier also attended and graduated from Friedman’s ADL Advanced Training School,(ATS) which Friedman created to train law enforcement officers in counter-terrorism programs. There’s not a thing wrong with that.

    But Lanier’s failure to mention that is more than a little significant to the credibility of her “impartial review” of MPD’s handling of hate crimes. Presumably, ADL’s ATS training was not provided free of charge to Lanier and/or MPD.

    Then there was the ADL Annual Meeting 5 years ago, at which DC’s relatively new police chief was awarded ADL’s prestigious Sigmund Livingston Award, described by ADL as recognizing “leaders who have demonstrated a lifelong commitment to protecting others, fighting injustice and intolerance, and dedication to the ideals of the Anti-Defamation League.”

    Seriously, ADL? Cathy Lanier had been chief less than 18 months at that point, and had just a year earlier tried to dismantle MPD’s award-winning Gay and Lesbian Liaison Unit.

    Call me kooky, but that’s a history that can put the lie to any police chief’s claims of unbiased investigation of one’s own PD.

    Lanier investigating Lanier’s MPD is just laughably ludicrous.

    No police department can withstand the taint of corruption and malfeasance without the persistent and diligent oversight of the local legislative body whose J.O.B. it is to do that.

    Mendelson repeatedly avoided any serious investigation of Lanier’s malfeasant MPD– even when he was alerted to the coverups and MPD abuses of rape and sexual assault victims by MPD’s police union president. We need to demand better of Tommy Wells and the entire Council.

    — google: “Cops union: Mendelson ignored sex assaults allegations”
    — google: “ADL Honors Chief of Police Cathy Lanier – Reuters”
    — also for more Lanier / MPD / ADL hypocrisies, google…
    “NOM ADL Urges DC Police to Investigate Motive Behind FRC”
    — for related MPD sex crimes coverup charges [video] google:
    “YouTube DC Police Fail Rape Victims”

    Thanks again to Jason Terry. Terry ought to consider another career as a LGBT news investigative reporter… or maybe for Human Rights Watch. Many thanks also to the Blade for its continuing coverage of LGBT public safety issues.

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