March 31, 2014 at 7:43 pm EDT | by Lou Chibbaro Jr.
Attack ad blames Mendelson for rise in hate crimes
Phil Mendelson, D.C. Council, Washington Blade, gay news

‘Rather than doing nothing, I publicly disagreed with the MPD’s decision to reorganize the GLLU,’ said Council Chair Phil Mendelson. (Washington Blade file photo by Michael Key)

LGBT activists are defending D.C. Council Chair Phil Mendelson (D-At-Large) against an election campaign ad by the D.C. police union that accuses him of failing to take steps to prevent the number of anti-LGBT hate crimes from nearly doubling between 2009 and 2011.

The Fraternal Order of Police, Metropolitan Police Department Labor Committee (FOP), which serves as a police union, is calling on city residents to “vote no on Phil Mendelson” in the April 1 primary in which he is running for re-election.

Rick Rosendall, president of the Gay and Lesbian Activists Alliance; transgender activist Jeri Hughes; and gay activist and Advisory Neighborhood Commissioner Bob Summersgill called Mendelson a champion of LGBT rights and disputed the FOP’s claim that he didn’t adequately respond to hate crimes targeting the LGBT community.

In what appears to be a first-of-its-kind attack ad accusing a politician of failing to protect the safety of the LGBT community, the FOP ad says that when Mendelson was chair of the Council’s Judiciary and Public safety Committee in 2009, he “sat by and did nothing as the Metropolitan Police Department’s Gay and Lesbian Liaison Unit (GLLU) was dismantled.”

The ad, which the FOP posted on its website and placed in the Washington Blade, goes on to say, “The result of Mendelson’s failure to act? The police department’s effectiveness in responding to hate crimes was weakened and it led to an almost 50 percent jump in hate crimes based on sexual orientation.”

Kristopher Baumann, chair of the FOP, told the Blade that LGBT organizations and activists joined the FOP in 2009 in criticizing a decision by the police department to reorganize and restructure the GLLU in a way that most activists said would decrease its effectiveness.

Baumann noted that concerns about the GLLU reorganization were found to be correct by a report assessing the police handling of anti-LGBT hate crimes released earlier this year. The report was prepared by an independent task force created and led by the Anti-Defamation League of the national capital area at the request of D.C. Police Chief Cathy Lanier.

Most LGBT activists don’t dispute the findings of the task force report that the reorganization of the GLLU by Lanier led to its becoming less effective in addressing hate crimes and led to strains in relations between the LGBT community and the police department. But Mendelson and some of his LGBT supporters, including Rosendall and Hughes, dispute the claim that Mendelson was responsible for these developments.

“The charge is inaccurate and false,” Mendelson told the Blade in a statement on Monday. “Rather than doing nothing, I publicly disagreed with the MPD’s decision to reorganize the GLLU, and this was the subject of a number of public hearings that I held — including several specifically focused on hate crime and MPD’s handling of hate crime,” he said.

Mendelson said he held separate hearings on hate crimes and determined that the increase in hate crimes targeting the LGBT community was likely due, in part, to improved reporting of hate crimes on the part of LGBT victims rather than an actual increase in the number of such crimes.

“It’s easy for negative campaigns to level false charges days before an election, but the charges neither comport with the facts, nor are echoed by any of the LGBT groups that have actually worked on this problem,” Mendelson said.

“This campaign to hold Phil Mendelson accountable is nothing more than an egregious campaign to smear and malign,” said Hughes. “I know several rank and file officers,” she said. “None of them feel that Phil Mendelson deserves this abuse – none.”

Baumann, who has been a longtime critic of Chief Lanier, said Mendelson held “hearing after hearing” but chose not to take legislative action to correct longstanding problems associated with hate crimes reporting and the police Gay and Lesbian Liaison Unit.

Mendelson said the hearings were productive and that none of the LGBT advocacy groups or Baumann proposed legislative changes at that time.

“They forced MPD to address the issue — prior thereto they were downplaying it,” Mendelson said of the hearings. “Police handling of [hate crimes] reports improved.”

According to Mendelson, the hearings also prompted the independent Office of Police Complaints, which investigates citizen complaints against police officers, to weigh in on the issue and led to the revival of the then inactive group Gays and Lesbians Against Violence (GLOV).

Baumann said the FOP has not endorsed Mendelson’s Democratic opponent in the primary, Calvin Gurley. Baumann said the police union’s ad campaign was aimed at urging voters to “take another look” at Mendelson and decide how best to vote both in the primary and, if Mendelson wins on Tuesday, as expected, whether to vote for an opponent that surfaces in the November general election.

GLAA gave Mendelson a +10 rating on LGBT issues on a rating scale of -10 to +10, the highest possible score. The group gave Gurley a +1 rating.

Although most political observers believe Mendelson is the odds-on favorite to win Tuesday’s primary, Gurley received close to 69,342 votes when he ran against Mendelson in a special election in 2012. According to Board of Elections returns, Mendelson won that election with 174,742 votes, with 3,017 voters writing in someone else’s name on the ballot.

Hassan Naveed, co-chair of Gays and Lesbians Opposing Violence, and Jason Terry, an official with the D.C. Trans Coalition, didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment on the FOP’s attack ad targeting Mendelson.

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

  • Mendelson said he held separate hearings on hate crimes and determined that the increase in hate crimes targeting the LGBT community was likely due, in part, to improved reporting of hate crimes on the part of LGBT victims rather than an actual increase in the number of such crimes.
    Seriously? Cut the lawyerly weasel-talk. DO NOT believe Mendo’s misleading half-truths.

    If he wanted to do something about GLLU’s core dismantling, Mendelson could have done a WHOLE LOT more than “publicly disagree” with MPD (PR window dressing to CHA). His J-PS Committeee MPD “oversight” was incredibly feckless.

    That’s always been Mendo’s problem. His idea of effective police oversight was REPEATEDLY asking the foxes to give him THEIR accounting of the chicken coop.

    The chiefs were only too happy to play Mendelson’s style of soft ball for the cameras– with lots of “impressive” cop jargon and double-speak.

    To this very day MPD has continued to COVERUP and WITHHOLD from the public basic status items of individual anti-LGBT hate crimes cases. That is… is a given hate crime case still OPEN or CLOSED– AND– how many ARRESTS to date made?

    Mendelson (and Wells to a lesser extent) have let MPD get away with those case coverups. Why? Perhaps they would all be too embarrassed by MPD’s poor performance in bringing hate crimes perpetrators to justice.

    Victims and the public deserve reasonable TRANSPARENCY from their MPD. A simple ONLINE CASE LOOKUP with limited information would inform victims and others nearby where the crimes occurred whether perpetrators have been apprehended or not. What doesn’t Council understand about the basic right of people to be able to protect themselves from additional assaults?

    And incredibly, Gray and Mendelson cut 400 cops (10%+) from MPD’s officer corps, knowing that DC’s population was exploding upward 12%. It’s true. MPD’s core GLLU unit has been nearly demolished as a results.

    But straight and LGBT DC residents alike have had their public safety and lives put at risk by Gray’s and Mendelson’s inexplicable contempt for adequate police patrols and robust Community Policing.

    These two top-ranking DC officials recklessly gambled with our families’, friends’ and neighbors’ lives and public safety for those wholly unnecessary police force cuts. And the results?

    – Robberies by gun are up 18% in DC.
    – Sexual assaults are up by 50% in DC.
    – ANTI-GAY HATE CRIMES are up 50% too.
    – DC’s homicide rate has DOUBLED since last year.

    DC (excluding its bordering cities/suburbs) ranks 24th in cities by population.
    But DC ranks as the 5th MOST DANGEROUS city in America.

  • DC homicide is about HALF of what it was 10 years ago.
    2004-198; 2006; 2008-169; 2010-132; 2011-108; 2012-88; 2013-92 (+12 in Navy yard which had nothing to do with DC policing).

    And in fact except for criminals killing criminals (90% of DC murder the past 10 years) murder is in the single digits in DC If you are not in a gang, engaged in criminal activity, or selling drugs you are less likely to be murdered in DC than in London.

    Robberies in DC is DOWN over the pastfive years.
    Aggravated assault: DOWN
    Burglary DOWN
    Auto theft: DOWN
    Petty theft: UP (like almost all cities from a known phenomena of smartphone theft)

    Rape and LBGT crimes are up statistically, but down in reality. The statistical rise is due to known changes in laws and reporting. We have vastly enhanced reporting in DC. This means more reports, not more crimes. Longitudinal studies were reporting systems are changed show reports rise but actual incidents can at the same time be down drastically.

  • Seriously, JJ? Readers here aren’t stupid.

    5 years? 10 years? Why stop there? Why not compare over 20 years?

    MPD’s stats would look REALLY, REALLY good compared to 20 years ago. Huh?

    As you probably know, violent crime stats across the U.S. have been going down for 20 YEARS– since the mid-90s. DC’s overall drop is part of a national trend.

    But the significant news DC’s Police Union reported is that the DC crimes I copied here are UP over the past year or so. There’s no mystery to that here. Fewer cops = more crimes.

    Just GOOGLE:
    “phil mendelson’s real record”

    Moreover, FBI crime stats and infoplease
    show DC ranks as the ..
    — 5TH Most Dangerous City in America,
    — tho its population rank is 24th

    Just GOOGLE:
    “most dangerous cities 2013 infoplease”

  • It’s not his fault that gay hat crimes have been rising, it’s the gay community mafia like tactics of pushing gay issues and marriage on others. it’s about them attacking anyone who dares has an opinion they don’t like. The recent example is the Christian Photographer who was sued to be forced to attend and photograph a gay wedding..the gay community and the left argue you shouldn’t discriminate but at the same time pro-gay/gay business have discriminated against Christians for their views(one example would be Mozilla)

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