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Trans group: D.C. hate crimes review biased toward police

Emails from police chief ‘raise questions’ about independence task force

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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.”

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3 Comments

3 Comments

  1. Rick Rosendall

    February 27, 2013 at 8:54 pm

    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.

  2. brian

    February 28, 2013 at 7:00 am

    mpd’s cozy coverups continued
    CHIEF’S SAME OLD SONG-AND-DANCE
    —–
    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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Monika Nemeth to run for Ward 3 D.C. Council seat

First known trans elected official in city

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ANC Rainbow Caucus, Monika Nemeth, gay news, Washington Blade
Monika Nemeth, the first known trans person to win election to public office in D.C., is running for Council.

Ward 3 Advisory Neighborhood Commissioner Monika Nemeth, who became the first known transgender person to win election to public office in D.C. when she won her ANC seat in 2018, says she plans to run as a Democrat for the Ward 3 D.C. Council seat currently held by incumbent Democrat Mary Cheh.

Nemeth is a former president of D.C.’s Gertrude Stein Democratic Club, which recently changed its name to the Capital Stonewall Democrats. She currently serves as chair of the ANC Rainbow Caucus, which advocates for LGBTQ issues. She holds the seat for ANC 3F 06, which represents the neighborhoods of North Cleveland Park and Wakefield.

Nemeth’s LinkedIn page says she has worked for more than 25 years in the Information Technology field. She says she currently manages a team of software developers for an IT company.

“Yes, I am planning a run for Ward 3 D.C. Council in 2022,” Nemeth told the Washington Blade. “I will be running as a Democrat, so I plan to be on the Democratic primary ballot,” she said. “I will pursue the public finance option for my campaign.”

When asked what she would do differently from Cheh, who is a longtime supporter of LGBTQ rights and who is expected to run for re-election, Nemeth said only that she will announce her platform at the time she formally announces her candidacy, which she expects to happen in early September.

Cheh was first elected to the D.C. Council in 2006. She is an attorney and tenured professor of constitutional law at George Washington University Law School.

The Washington City Paper has reported that at least one other candidate is considering running against Cheh for the Ward 3 Council seat – Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority attorney Petar Dimtchev. Dimtchev received the Washington Post endorsement when he ran unsuccessfully against Cheh in 2018 as an independent, according to the City Paper.

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UDC hit with anti-trans discrimination complaint

University accused of misgendering student

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Emma Alexandra accuses UDC of misgendering her and outing her to fellow students and faculty. (Photo courtesy Alexandra)

A female transgender student at the University of the District of Columbia on Aug. 2 filed a discrimination complaint against the university on grounds that it is violating the city’s Human Rights Act by continuing to use her legal name on school documents and class enrollment lists unless she obtains a legal name change.

Emma K. Alexandra, 28, a part-time student who was admitted to UDC in April, states in her complaint filed with the D.C. Office of Human Rights that she informed UDC officials that she was not ready to immediately undertake a legal name change. She states in her complaint that she has repeatedly asked that her chosen name alone be used on all documents and student lists that can be viewed by fellow students and professors.

She said she understands that her legal name may be needed for legal admissions and academic transcript related documents. But to her dismay, Alexandra told the Washington Blade, UDC officials put in place what they consider a compromise position that identifies her on all public university documents and student class lists by both her legal name and her chosen name.

She said the university began and currently continues to identify her by her male legal name with her preferred name written next to her legal name inside parentheses in this way: Legal First Name (preferred name Emma); Legal last name (preferred name Alexandra).

“This is an egregious solution,” Alexandra told UDC President Ronald Mason Jr. in a July 4 email. “This is the name that appears everywhere now,” she wrote Mason. “Most notable, it’s the name that was displayed to my fellow students and professor during the class I took this summer on Blackboard,” she said, which is an online site like Zoom on which UDC conducts classes.

“This effectively outed me as trans to every other student and my professor,” she told Mason. “I assume the same will continue when I go to campus in the fall and get an ID. My ID will have this name and out me to everyone I show it to,” she wrote. “This is completely unacceptable, disrespectful and dangerous.”

Alexandra said she currently works full time as a Web Application Architect for Bloomberg Industry Group as part of its News Engineering team. She said the company is fully accepting of her using her chosen name without obtaining a legal name change. She said she has enrolled at UDC to take courses she needs to qualify for applying to medical school to fulfill her dream of becoming a psychiatrist.  

Under longstanding procedures, the D.C. Office of Human Rights investigates discrimination complaints and usually calls on both parties to consider reaching a conciliation agreement over the complaint if possible. If conciliation cannot be reached, OHR makes a determination of whether probable cause exists that discrimination occurred in violation of D.C. law.

If such a determination is made, the case is sent to the D.C. Commission on Human Rights, which conducts a trial-like hearing that includes testimony by witnesses before it issues a ruling on the case.

In response to a question from the Blade about whether a refusal by a D.C. university to use a transgender person’s chosen name violates the Human Rights Act, OHR Director Monica Palacio said OHR cannot provide legal advice on such a question. But in a statement to the Blade, Palacio said for educational institutions, the Human Rights Act prohibits discrimination based on 15 protected characteristics, including gender identity and expression.

OHR’s regulations related to educational institutions “prohibit creating a hostile environment which could include deliberately misgendering a student,” Palacio said. “If anyone believes the statute has been violated, they may file a complaint with OHR,” she said. “OHR investigations are confidential.”

Alexandra said she had yet to receive a direct reply to her email message to Mason as of early this week. But last week she was contacted by phone by an official from the university’s admissions office and from Dr. William Latham, UDC’s Chief Student Development and Success Officer on behalf of Mason.

According to Alexandra, the two explained that her legal name was needed on certain legal documents. She said Latham explained that a software system the university uses to manage student records known as the Banner system, doesn’t support preferred names and currently prevents the school from displaying only her preferred name.

The officials said the university planned to upgrade to a newer version of Banner in October and the new system “may” support using preferred names, Alexandra said.

“Overall, I thought this was a really ridiculous conversation where folks from UDC tried to convince me that they are using my preferred name while also stating that they cannot use my preferred name as it should be used, mostly due to limitations of software,” Alexandra told the Blade. “I don’t think the Human Rights Act has an exception for software systems,” she said.

The Blade contacted UDC President Mason by email on July 20, asking him to comment on Alexandra’s concerns and asking him what, if any, problems would be caused if the university used Alexandra’s chosen name rather than her legal name on the various public, external documents and lists in which her legal name is being used.

“In response to your July 20 email, the Office of the Registrar can enter the student’s preferred name in Banner (via all access screen for faculty and staff awareness), however all official documents, such as the academic transcript, will require the use of the student’s official legal name,” Mason told the Blade in a one-sentence response.

His response didn’t address the issue raised by UDC official Latham in his phone conversation with Alexandra in which Latham said the Banner software system couldn’t currently identify Alexandra only by her chosen name. Mason also didn’t respond to the Blade’s question of why UDC could not adopt a policy like the D.C. Public Schools system, which accepts a request by transgender students to use their chosen name without having to obtain a legal name change.

Alexandra, meanwhile, points out that UDC’s refusal so far to allow her chosen name alone to be used on all public university documents and student lists without her legal name being attached to it appears to be at odds with a May 4 open letter Mason released to the university community expressing strong support for using the appropriate pronouns for transgender and gender non-conforming students.

“The University of the District of Columbia (UDC) strives to be an inclusive campus that supports and values all members of our community, including LGBTQIA+, nonbinary, intersex and gender non-conforming students,” Mason says in his letter.

“Choosing to not use or ignore the pronouns someone has requested you to use implies that person shouldn’t and doesn’t exist and does not deserve respect,” Mason wrote in his letter. “Therefore, we encourage all faculty and staff to use pronouns in their email signatures as an act of solidarity and to foster a culture of respect for every Firebird,” he concludes in referring to the symbolic name used for members of the UDC community.

UDC is governed by a 15-member independent Board of Trustees. Eleven of the members are appointed by the D.C. mayor and confirmed by the D.C. Council. Three are appointed by UDC alumni and one by students, according to information on the UDC website.

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LULAC Lambda announces 2021 scholarship awards

Castro, Javier Rodriguez win $1,000 honors

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Brian Castro and Victor Javier Rodriguez are this year’s LULAC award winners.

The D.C.-based LGBTQ Latinx organization LULAC Lambda has announced it has selected two D.C. residents bound for graduate studies in foreign affairs and higher education to receive its 2021 annual scholarship award.

“For a fourth year in a row, LULAC Lambda will provide scholarships to outstanding scholars who come from our LGBTQ+ Latinx community,” said Erik Rodriquez, the LULAC Lambda president, in a statement released by the group. “Our scholarship program will help these scholars achieve their academic goals and reduce their student debt,” Rodriquez said.

The statement says one of the two scholarship awards, for $1,000, will go to Brian Castro, who will begin studies for a master’s degree in the fall of 2021 at Georgetown University’s Walsh School of Foreign Service.

“The generous scholarship provided by LULAC Lambda will complement my studies by going directly into my tuition costs,” Castro said in the statement. “Though I have been a resident of Washington, D.C., working full-time at a leading public health consulting firm, I am grateful to have received the support from an organization that is also committed to social justice,” he said.

The other scholarship, for $1,300, will go to Victor Javier Rodriguez for his doctoral work in education at Florida State University. The LULAC Lambda statement says Javier Rodriquez’s academic interest lies in “exploring the relationship between school communities and districts’ implementation of anti-racist practice and student success.”

In his own words, Javier Rodriquez said, “A long-term career goal of mine is to affect change at the federal level through the United States Department of Education, in which I would work to address our nation’s education crisis by advocating for equitable policies and practices that improve the outcome for all our students, especially those who are most vulnerable.”

LULAC Lambda says it was founded in October 2014 “to mobilize and strengthen the LGBTQ+ and Latinx communities of Washington, D.C. through community and civic engagement.” It is one of 1,000 chapters across the country affiliated with the League of United Latin American Citizens (LULAC), the nation’s largest and oldest Latinx volunteer-based civil rights organization, the group’s statement says.

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