Three of the six “core” members of the D.C. police department’s Gay and Lesbian Liaison Unit have been assigned to perform street patrol duties in Chinatown from Nov. 20 to Jan. 3, decreasing the unit’s ability to respond to LGBT-related calls, according to police sources.
The sources, who spoke on condition that they not be identified, said with GLLU Officer Juanita Foreman out on sick leave until at least January, if not longer, the detailing of the three officers to Chinatown leaves only one remaining core GLLU officer — Zunobia Hakir — to work on the unit’s regular duties along with the unit’s supervisor, Sgt. Matt Mahl.
“They’re essentially out of commission,” said one of the sources.
Under a restructuring program for the GLLU and three other special liaison units put in place seven years ago by Police Chief Cathy Lanier, more than 90 GLLU affiliate officers are currently working in the city’s seven police districts, a list on the police website shows.
But sources familiar with the GLLU have said the affiliate officers have had varying degrees of training on LGBT issues and must perform non-GLLU duties most of the time.
Despite those limitations, for the past several years police officials have detailed at least one affiliate officer to work full time at the GLLU headquarters in Dupont Circle on a rotating basis, according to the sources.
However, for unknown reasons, Lanier or one of her high-level subordinates recently stopped detailing affiliate officers to the headquarters unit, magnifying the impact of the temporary transfer of the three regular GLLU members to Chinatown, sources said.
Lt. Sean Conboy, a police spokesperson, said he would make inquiries about the Chinatown re-deployment in response to a request last week for comment by the Blade, but he didn’t get back with an explanation for the redeployment as of late Wednesday of this week.
News of the Chinatown assignment for GLLU officers came in the form of a Nov. 19 email memo by Lt. Cheryl Crawley, the recently named director of the police Special Liaison Division. The division oversees the GLLU, the Latino Liaison Unit, the Asian Liaison Unit and the Deaf and Hard of Hearing Liaison Unit.
Sources said Crawley’s memo directed GLLU Officers Joseph Morquecho, Justin Markiewicz and Kevin Johnson to report the following day to the Chinatown assignment where, among other things, they would assist with daily business checks and litter enforcement as well as possible assistance in matters involving LGBT youth.
The memo said that, if called to assist with a GLLU matter, the three officers should provide such assistance and then return to their Chinatown duties, the sources said.
Lanier said last month that she had increased the number of officers patrolling in the Chinatown area in response to an increase in crime in the area, including a widely reported shooting incident near the Verizon Center arena.
Members of the specialized units have been temporarily detailed to other assignments since the units were created by former Police Chief Charles Ramsey. But the redeployments have become more frequent in recent years.
In February, four officers with the GLLU headquarters unit were deployed to the Sixth and Seventh Districts and a short time later to a single location deemed to be a high crime area – the 1500 block of Alabama Avenue, S.E. A police spokesperson at the time said the officers would continue to respond to GLLU calls while deployed to that location.
In September, Lanier announced that officers in most of the department’s specialized units would be deployed to other assignments doing street patrols on a rotating basis. Spokesperson Gwendolyn Crump said then that one GLLU officer would be assigned to this service, known as the Patrol Support Team Initiative, for one week each month.
Lanier and other police officials have disputed claims by some critics, including the police union, that a dip in the number of officers due to attrition could soon lead to a shortage of officers needed to keep the city safe.
Police officials have acknowledged that the size of the force was down due to a “bubble” of retirement age officers who are leaving to retire.
Mayor Vincent Gray and Council Chair Phil Mendelson told the Blade last week that the city is committed to funding a force of 4,000 officers, the number deemed sufficient for the needs of the department. Mendelson said the number may have dipped to 3,900 or slightly less this year.
He and Gray said they are committed to ensuring that the GLLU remains an effective unit.
Paul Tupper, chair of Gays and Lesbians Opposing Violence (GLOV), which monitors police response to anti-LGBT violence, expressed concern over the reports that GLLU members were detailed to Chinatown duties.
“If GLLU officers have been reallocated, even temporarily, this is a missed opportunity by the Metropolitan Police Department to improve relations with D.C.’s LGBT community,” Tupper said. “With increased transparency, any concerns about the safety of our community could have been mitigated.”