March 20, 2013 at 12:06 pm EDT | by Lou Chibbaro Jr.
GLLU supervisor stripped of police powers
Carlos Mejia, Matthew Mahl, David Mariner, Diane Groomes, GLLU, MPD, Gay & Lesbian Liaison Unit of the Metropolitan Police Department, gay news, Washington Blade

Sgt. Matthew Mahl (second from left) joined Sgt. Carlos Mejia (left) and Deputy Chief Diane Groomes (right) in presenting a certificate of appreciation on behalf of the Gay and Lesbian Liaison Unit to David Mariner, executive director of D.C.’s LGBT Community Center, at a GLLU reception last September. (Washington Blade file photo by Michael Key)

Sgt. Matthew Mahl, who has been serving as acting supervisor of the D.C. police department’s Gay and Lesbian Liaison Unit, has been stripped of his police powers, including his uniform, badge and gun, while being investigated for an undisclosed allegation, according to sources familiar with the situation.

“Sgt. Mahl is on non-contact status pending the outcome of an administrative matter,” said police spokesperson Gwendolyn Crump. “He is still at the GLLU.”

Crump told the Blade the GLLU is currently “under the management of Capt. Edward Delgado, the official in charge of the Special Liaison Division.”

She said police personnel rules prevent her from disclosing any additional details, including the reason the department suspended Mahl’s police powers.

Dale Sanders, a D.C. area attorney who, among other things, represents D.C. police officers on legal matters, said he has no knowledge of Mahl’s case. But he said the department suspends police powers from officers for many reasons, including complaints by citizens that an officer used excessive force in making an arrest.

“These types of complaints are very frequent,” he said, adding that in most cases, such complaints go to the city’s civilian complaint review board. “It is not permanent. It is subject to investigation.”

However, Sanders said it’s not routine for an officer to have his or her police powers suspended for most allegations made in citizen complaints.

Nykisha Cleveland, a spokesperson for the civilian D.C. Office of Police Complaints, told the Blade on Wednesday that no “sustained complaints” against Mahl have been processed by or are pending before the police complaints office. She said the Office of Police Complaints doesn’t publicly disclose cases where complaints are filed against an officer but are dismissed because “no reasonable cause” is found to sustain them.

LGBT activists who know Mahl, including Hassan Naveed, co-chair of the local group Gays and Lesbians Opposing Violence (GLOV), have praised Mahl’s work at the GLLU, calling him a dedicated and hard-working officer who works well with the community.

Naveed, who meets regularly with GLLU members and other police officials, including Capt. Delgado, said no one at the GLLU or the department informed GLOV of Mahl’s changed status.

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

  • Rather than focusing on the due process to which all MPD officers are entitled, we’d all serve LGBT public safety better to insist that Mayor Gray and Chief Lanier provide us the statistics on anti-LGBT hate crimes which were *CLOSED by ARREST* for the past 5 years.

    What are they afraid of? Why are they hiding those statistics from the public they are sworn to serve?

  • I am always sorry to hear of things like this – but in public service they do happen – Sgt. Mahl is one of the most sincere individuals I have had the honor of knowing since I moved to the DC area and someone I look up to. Sgt. Mahl has always treated me with respect and courtesy whenever our paths have crossed.

  • It infuriates me to read something like this about one of the best things to happen to the GLLU I’m a long a time. Matt is one of the nicest and most sincere people that I know. Is it really news that he does his job? I support him and all the officers at the GLLU. It’s absurd to write stories just to undermine his personal credibility. Why not write about how the GLLU is understaffed or how much they help the LGBT community. With or without “police powers” he does a great job and is always helpful.

  • MPD’s PR/Communications team is spending way too much time trying to manipulate and cover up citizens’ questions on its MPD District listservs. But it is clearly not spending enough time explaining MPD’s internal investigation procedures, its standard precautions and a respect for presumption of innocence.

    A sudden media spotlight on this GLLU officer is misleading and unfair to him. A similar media spotlight on A/C Groomes some years back was also misleading and unfair to her.

    MPD-HQ is at fault for poor communications with the press about their routine status change for MPD officers under MPD investigation. That status change is supposed to reassure the public of MPD’s integrity. Ironically, by failing to fully inform the news media, it does just the opposite.

    MPD-HQ essentially lets news reports besmirch the innocent along with the guilty without providing counterbalancing facts.

    MPD needs to provide the media the full story of MPD procedures. And it should be cautioning and reminding the public of the due process and presumption of innocence everyone deserves.

    Like it or not, too many have an inaccurate, stereotypical bias, ingrained from many years and dozens if not hundreds of TV and movie police-themed scenes in which a ‘bad cop’ is stripped of his/her badge and gun.

    When the news of an internal MPD investigation of an allegation leaks to the press, as it often does, MPD-HQ should be ready with informative ‘boilerplate’ data sheets to help inform the press and naturally curious public.

    That information should fully explain MPD procedures, the reasons for those procedures, and caution the press that all subjects of MPD investigations should be presumed innocent, pending results of an investigation.

    So I was mistaken (above). We SHOULD focus on due process at MPD– which must include truthful and open communications with the press and the public MPD is supposed to be serving.

    I don’t think it’s intentional abuse of a subject, but MPD-HQ neglect is almost as bad. I think MPD as an organization has just drifted into a culture of carelessness or disrespect– of both the public, and its right to know, as well as of members of its own MPD family.

    And that’s just a sad drift for all of us.

  • So Lanier at first tried to quash the entire LGBT liason unit all together and when that got her a backlash, there has now been trouble for every officer that gets put in charge there. Interesting.

  • While I do believe everyone has a right to file complaints against an officer I do believe there should be some processes in place so that it doesn't get this far. I have a problem when people file possibly erroneous complaints that slander not only an officers character but removes him/her from a position in which he/she is CONSISTENTLY AND CONSTANTLY HELPING THE COMMUNITY. I have personally witnessed Sgt. Mahl act in the utmost professional, courtesy, and helpful manner which is to be expected of an officer. This complaint and article is disgusting to witness. I only hope that the The Washington Blade, its reporters, and other news media outlets with update this article as this officer is cleared, as to properly report what actually happens.

  • What right does this story have to be called “Local News?” Is the writer a journalist or the town gossip? What attempt has he made to follow-up on the story? Why haven’t any of the important questions been asked, much less answered? Why has the writer not spoken to Sergeant Mahl himself? Has the author no other contacts within the MPD than a spokesperson from some obscure office who is speaking in generalizations? Or does he take the word of the disgruntled and hide behind their right to anonymity?

    The writer lists undisclosed allegations, quotes attorneys who do not know the parties involved, who are unrelated to the story, and who are unfamiliar with the case. Further there are no dates listed. No date of a complaint, no date of administrative action, no time-frame relating to the administrative leave, no date he is expected to return to duty, nothing.

    The Blade should be ashamed of this pseudo journalism, and either update the story, or retract it completely. Sergeant Mahl is a fine example of a police officer, and certainly more professional in his work than the writer.

  • The Blade should be ashamed of this pseudo journalism, and either update the story, or retract it completely.
    OK. We get it. You like Matt Mahl, too.

    But you do Sergeant Mahl no service by attempting to demonize one of the best LGBT newspapers in the world– as well as one of the best LGBT journalists in the world. Over decades, millions of readers by now know the journalistic integrity of the Washington Blade, as well as its award-winning, veteran reporter Lou Chibbaro, Jr.

    It is the Blade’s job to report the news fairly; not to cheer lead for Matt Mahl or anyone else. Regular readers of the Blade know that important, ongoing news stories get followed up routinely.

    This is an important story for LGBT policing as well as for the credibility of MPD’s management at its highest levels. The Blade would be derelict in its mission if it did not cover this story.

    Also, this is a time when the Metropolitan Police Department (MPD) stands accused of management malfeasance, cronyism, a sham, PR-driven hate crimes task force, discriminatory policing, biased policing, abuse of crime victims, and unfair, abusive internal treatment of its own MPD officers.

    The damning allegations against MPD for crime case suppression, coverups and abuse of rape and sex assault victims, by Human Rights Watch in January, may be just the tip of a very large iceberg.

    What if police abuse and case coverups are happening to anti-LGBT hate crimes, too? What if crime case suppression is happening across a whole spectrum of crime categories?

    We all ought to be grateful that we have a robust LGBT news media in DC watching out for our public safety.

  • I know too many D.C. cops that AREN’T with the GLLU that should be on administrative leave but aren’t. So I find this story to be rather amazing knowing how far the MPD allows it’s officers to go before taking action. But this is a gay man and I have to keep that in mind along with the rampant homophobia/transphobia in the MPD and how it clouds their judgement.

  • I agree with Leigh Ann. This is an article that is presented with “sources” as the cited documenter of the alleged situation. And yes – I too, like Sgt Mahl, but more than like, I respect Sgt Mahl not just personally, but for the good he has done in the LGBT community. It is frustrating to me to see a person I respect be written about in the way this article is written. The author may be award winning and the Blade is a paper of renown, but in the end there are some essential journalistic principles that should have been considered. The basic one is that if a paper is to publish an article like this and call into question the character of a public individual – it is better to do so by fact, not by “sources” and hence innuendo.

  • Let me put this as succinctly as I can. Some of you are barking up the wrong tree. Keep your eye on MPD management!

    And when it comes to something as highly sensitive (and potentially career-ending) as serious reporting of police operations behind the scenes, using unnamed reliable sources is often the only coin of the realm for good reporters. It is not unlike the unnamed sources WaPo/(Woodward and Bernstein) had to use in their reporting of the Watergate scandal of the 1970’s.

    FYI, for newbies to town, and interested others– MPD has quite a long history of abuse of its LGBT officers. In a PD whose management has had little probative oversight from our local legislative officials in recent years, it is especially important that our LGBT press keep a close eye on the probability that such institutional and/or management abuses can repeat at MPD.

    And MPD management abuse is not limited to LGBT officers by any means. Just google…
    “MPD misfired what went wrong” …
    and read that story for a glimpse of what’s really going on at MPD.

    No. The rights of Sergeant Mahl and all of our dedicated MPD officers are much better served by the oversight of our city’s probative press– both LGBT and straight, too.

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