December 3, 2014 at 4:23 pm EST | by Lou Chibbaro Jr.
Gay police unit’s officers re-deployed to Chinatown
Cheryl Crawley, GLLU, gay news, Washington Blade

Lt. Cheryl Crawley directed several GLLU Officers to report to a new Chinatown assignment. (Photo courtesy of the MPD)

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.”

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

2 Comments
  • 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.
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    Deemed "sufficient" by whom? Phil Mendelson? Phil Mendelson has been enormously disappointing when it comes to adequately protecting LGBTs from hate crimes, and crime in general.
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    Mendelson has always had an apparent personal bias against Community Policing — which requires more police, not less. Mendelson, Gray and Fenty cut MPD's sworn force while the city's population exploded upward 12%. We should have a sworn force closer to 4,500 officers, now, just to keep pace with the city's explosive population growth since 2008.
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    Everyone at a PD takes orders. Police chiefs take orders from the civilian politicians who hire them. But they're often used as cynical political cover by incumbent politicians at election time, too.
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    Selfishly using a city's police force, which should be scrupulously nonpartisan and nonpolitical at all times, is a reckless and dangerous abuse of any officeholder's power, whether liberal or conservative.
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    Given this holiday and interregnum season of comity and good will, I'll not repeat more recent historical examples on that subject. DC's long election campaign is now over, and governing resumes for four years.
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    If LGBT residents are alarmed at the cutbacks at GLLU and with MPD's overall force level– as well they should be– they need to convey that in large numbers to Mayor-elect Bowser and Council Chair Mendelson, as well as their local council members.
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    I'm guessing MPD's chiefs would be happy to implement a rapid expansion of MPD's force level so as to accommodate an effective Community Policing model, including an expansion of SLD and GLLU, if so ordered by their community-responsive civilian bosses.
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    In the meantime, let's continue support for all the core, highly experienced officers of GLLU and the SLD — and let's welcome and get to know Lt. Crawley.

  • It doesn't bother me that GLLU core unit officers are temporarily assigned to crime hot-spot neighborhoods.
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    But there is a lot more public safety outreach, crime prevention information (both general and specific to LGBTs) and announcements to the LGBT community core GLLU officers could be directed to do. And that's in addition to their temporary hot-spot deployments.
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    That's really what's at issue here.
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    — Where are the GLLU outreach events (GLLU open house gatherings, GLOV, Rainbow Response events, safety seminars, campus meetings, MPD district meeting intros/talks, etc)?
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    — How come we're not hearing from our GLLU core officers with MPD announcements/ lookout alerts/ public safety tips on the SLD (MPD-SLU) Listserv?
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    Chief Lanier has always liked out-of-the-box thinking and new ideas. Revitalizing GLLU's public information and LGBT community awareness and outreach functions can be a terrific initiative by the Bowser Administration.
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