D.C. Police Chief Cathy Lanier issued an internal message to all members of the force on Tuesday announcing that the department’s Gay and Lesbian Liaison Unit has changed its name to include the words bisexual and transgender.
“In an effort to be inclusive to all members of the LGBT community, the Gay and Lesbian Liaison Unit will change its name to the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Liaison Unit (LGBTLU),” Lanier said in her message.
“This name change will be recognizable to all members of the LGBT community seeking assistance from the Metropolitan Police Department,” she said.
The name change comes 10 months after Lanier named Sgt. Jessica Hawkins, an out transgender woman, as supervisor of the GLLU. Hawkins became the first transgender person to hold that position.
As of late Tuesday, the department had not publicly announced the name change. The Washington Blade obtained a copy of the chief’s message, which also bears the name of Assistant Chief Diane Groomes. Groomes heads the department’s Patrol Services Bureau, which oversees the police liaison units.
Sources familiar with the department told the Blade that Lt. Cheryl Crawley, commander of the department’s Special Liaison Division, which oversees the LGBTLU, informed about a dozen LGBT activists about the name change in an email sent on Tuesday evening.
The activists receiving the email are members of an LGBT advisory group created by the department called the Violence Prevention and Response Team. The group, known as VPART, meets with Crawley and Sheila Alexander Reid, director of the Mayor’s Office of LGBTQ Affairs, in closed session once a month.
“As previously discussed in VPART meetings, and after receiving input from partners of the community, the Special Liaison Division would like to announce a name change to the Gay and Lesbian Liaison Unit,” Crawley said in her email.
David Mariner, executive director of the D.C. Center for the LGBT Community and a member of VPART, said he was pleased with the name change, saying it reflects the full LGBT community that the former GLLU has served since its founding in the 1990s.
“We welcome the change,” said Mariner, who noted that the LGBTLU name change comes shortly after a D.C. Center sponsored group called Gays and Lesbians Opposing Violence (GLOV) changed its name to the D.C. LGBT Anti-Violence Project.
Jason Terry, an official with the D.C. Trans Coalition, said he, too, was pleased with the police liaison unit’s name change. But Terry, who has been a critic of the department’s response to an independent report that called for further improvements in D.C. police relations with the trans community, said further action was needed.
“I think it’s more important that we see substantive change at MPD along with cosmetic change like this,” he said.
The number of LGBTLU officers was reduced from five to four last fall when then GLLU Officer Jason Markiewicz requested and received approval to be transferred out of the unit to a patrol assignment in the Sixth Police District. As of last month, Lanier had not replaced Markiewicz with a newly appointed member.
Markiewicz’s departure came at a time when the department was facing a shortage of officers due to what police officials have called a “retirement bubble” in which more officers were retiring than could be replaced by new recruits. As of the spring of 2015, the shortage prompted Lanier to reassign then GLLU members to non-GLLU duties for half of their daily shift assignments, sources familiar with the unit said.