D.C. Police Chief Cathy Lanier told a transgender community town hall meeting Tuesday night that her department is moving quickly to implement recommendations by an independent task force on ways to improve police response to crimes targeting the transgender community.
Lanier, who was joined by nearly a dozen high-level police officials, including a captain and sergeant in charge of the police Gay and Lesbian Liaison Unit, said the overwhelming majority of officers are sensitive to the needs and concerns of transgender citizens.
She said that in cases where members of the LGBT community in general and the trans community in particular encounter improper or abusive treatment by a police officer, such incidents should immediately be reported to the department through an established complaint process.
“If there is wrongdoing on the part of a police officer, we want to know about it,” she said. “We should address that, and we will.”
The town hall event was sponsored jointly by the D.C. Trans Coalition, Casa Ruby, Gays and Lesbians Opposing Violence (GLOV), the Gay and Lesbian Activists Alliance, the LGBT youth advocacy group SMYAL and the sex worker advocacy group HIPS.
The meeting was held in a community room of the D.C. Department of Employment Services on Minnesota Ave, N.E.
The sponsoring groups asked Lanier to discuss the department’s response to the findings and recommendations of a 41-page report prepared by the Hate Crimes Assessment Task Force, an independent body created by the Anti-Defamation League of Washington at Lanier’s request.
Among other things, the task force found that although the “vast majority of MPD leaders and personnel” are committed to the security and safety of the LGBT community, shortcomings exist in the department’s relations with the transgender community.
“With the exception of GLLU officers, most transgender people do not trust the police and believe that MPD officers too frequently see them as criminals because they are transgender,” the report states.
The report says the task force conducted its research between April 2012 and September 2013, which included “extensive interviews with LGBT leaders and advocates, LGBT community members, and MPD personnel of all ranks throughout the department,” with an emphasis on officers assigned to hate crimes, LGBT outreach and related duties.
In response to at least two-dozen questions from audience members, Lanier outlined the department’s efforts to address issues raised by the task force report, most of which are included as an addendum to the report.
The department has already taken steps to revamp the GLLU’s officer affiliate program to improve the training and selection of GLLU affiliate officers, who are assigned to each of the department’s eight police districts throughout the city.
The task force report says many in the LGBT community expressed concern that the GLLU became more distant and less visible to the community after the affiliate program was created by Lanier to expand the reach of the GLLU beyond its half dozen or so “core” officers.
Lanier said her supervisors in the police districts are now carefully assessing how the GLLU affiliate members are interacting with the community. Those found not to have a “good fit” for community interaction will be reassigned to other duties and officers more suited for the GLLU’s duties will replace them, she said.
“So we’ve come a long way,” she told the Blade after the meeting. “Are there individuals in the department — we have almost 5,000 employees — that may harbor a bias? Of course there are. But we can’t let that define our organization. We have to let the mass of the police define our organization and keep looking to get rid of people who don’t belong here,” she said.
Veteran transgender activist Earline Budd and Jason Terry, a member of the D.C. Trans Coalition, said they were optimistic that Lanier will carry out the task force report’s recommendations for improving the department’s relations with the trans community.