Officers assigned to the D.C. Metropolitan Police Department’s Gay and Lesbian Liaison Unit may no longer be allowed to attend “fundraising or alcohol served events” held by LGBT community organizations, according to an April 3 email memo issued by the unit’s commander.
The email issued by Lt. Cheryl Crawley, commander of the MPD’s Special Liaison Division, which oversees the GLLU, also was sent to several LGBT organizations through a police list serv.
At least two activists who saw the email have raised questions about why GLLU officers should suddenly be barred from attending community events that they have routinely attended in the past.
“Please be advised that MPD GLLU will support outreach and parade events but due to conflict of interest we will not be able to support fundraising or alcohol served events,” Crawley said in her email. “Although, we may be able to assist with crime patrol and visibility at some outdoor venues,” she said.
“If you have any questions, please do not hesitate to contact me,” Crawley wrote. “We look forward to assisting with some scheduled events as planning continues.”
Earl Fowlkes, executive director of the Center for Black Equity, a D.C.-based national LGBT group that organizes the city’s annual Black Pride events, said he was puzzled over Crawley’s message, which he said he received through the police list serv.
“I am perplexed. I don’t understand where they are coming from,” said Fowlkes, who noted that several Black Pride events are held each year in a D.C. hotel where alcohol is served.
“I appreciate when they come to the hotel where we have our events,” he said. “We feel safer when the police are there. I don’t understand it. This makes no sense to me at all.”
Rick Rosendall, president of the Gay and Lesbian Activists Alliance, said he contacted D.C. Police Chief Cathy Lanier by email to ask her for an explanation of the rationale behind the apparent policy mentioned in Crawley’s email memo.
Rosendall noted that GLAA’s annual anniversary reception and fundraiser, which is scheduled for April 23, is routinely attended by the city’s mayor, City Council members and former Police Chief Charles Ramsey as well as GLLU officers in the past.
“I was about to send a note to you and GLLU folk inviting you to join us as our guests,” Rosendall told Lanier in an email, when the Blade sent him a copy of Crawley’s message seeking comment.
“What conflict of interest would occur from GLLU officials, or you yourself, attending our reception, which is a fundraiser for our nonpartisan advocacy and at which there is bar service?” Rosendall asked Lanier.
“Is there concern that our awards reception, which traditionally features leading LGBT advocates mingling with top District officials and celebrating the non-controversial cause of equality, would become a drunken orgy?” he asked.
Rosendall urged Lanier to rescind or clarify the policy articulated in Crawley’s memo. He said he had not received a reply from Lanier as of late Tuesday.
In response to a request by the Blade for clarification of the Crawley memo, MPD spokesperson Gwendolyn Crump provided a written statement saying the email message by Crawley was a reiteration of existing police policy.
“The staffing of fundraising events by on-duty members presents a conflict of interest, and MPD cannot support regardless of the type of group raising money,” Crump said. “This policy applies to all members of the agency.”
Crump added, “MPD will continue to provide services in-line with public safety interests related to community events, such as high-visibility patrol, and pedestrian/motorist traffic direction and control.”
Crump also said police will “continue to participate in community events such as parades, walks, and similar outdoor activities,” calling them a “tremendous opportunity to develop relationships with community members and further trust and respect between police and the public.”
But she stated, “MPD will not participate in events taking place at ABRA regulated establishments…”
ABRA is the Alcoholic Beverage Regulation Administration which, among other things, issues liquor licenses to all businesses that sell and serve alcoholic beverages, including restaurants, bars, nightclubs and hotels.
“We have not modified our operational policies relating to these matters,” Crump said in her statement. “These are longstanding. At times we believe it appropriate to remind the public of how we can assist in particular situations, and during specific types of events.”
One police source, who spoke on condition of not being identified, said that although these policies have been in place for a long time, Chief Lanier appears to have interpreted them in a more restrictive way in recent years.
Another source familiar with the GLLU said Crawley appears to have singled out the GLLU with her email memo. The source, who also spoke on condition of not being identified, said the other police liaison units, including the Latino Liaison Unit, the Asian and Pacific Islander Liaison Unit, and the Deaf and Hard of Hearing Liaison Unit, did not receive the Crawley memo.