Sgt. Matthew Mahl, a gay 11-year veteran at the D.C. Metropolitan Police Department and a former supervisor of the department’s LGBT Liaison Unit, won election on Jan. 12 as head of the police union.
Mahl’s election by a 2-to-1 margin as chairman of the Labor Committee of the Fraternal Order of Police — the official title of the union — came as a surprise to department observers, who view the development as a clear decision by rank and file members to oust their current leader, Sgt. Delroy Burton.
Under the union’s governing procedures, Mahl doesn’t assume the office of chairman until April 1.
Mahl told the Washington Blade that he and two other candidates who won election to the position of vice chairman and secretary ran on a platform calling for an end to what they considered an overly confrontational posture of the union’s current leaders toward D.C. Police Chief Cathy Lanier and the administration of Mayor Muriel Bowser.
He said he would try to schedule an interview with the Blade soon to discuss some of his and the other newly elected union officials’ plans for changes for the union. Mahl elaborated on his concerns about the current leaders in an interview with the Washington Post last week.
“The current union leaders are always attacking the chief and the city,” he told the Post. “The police union and the city have the same goals. We want happy and safe police officers and we want happy and safe communities. We can’t keep punching the police leaders in the face all the time.”
Burton couldn’t immediately be reached for comment. The police union website, which regularly reports on police-related news, includes a Dec. 14 announcement about the nomination process for candidates running for leadership positions. But the site makes no mention of the results of the Jan. 12 union election.
Burton told the Post he believed the vote to oust him was more about internal union issues than his relationship with Lanier and the mayor.
The union website says the FOP Labor Committee represents approximately 3,600 members, which include sworn officers, detectives and sergeants. It says the chairman serves as the union’s chief executive officer and is one of five members of an Executive Committee, which “exercises general administrative authority and is empowered to act on behalf of the Labor Committee.”
Lanier and the mayor’s office released statements saying they were pleased that the newly elected union leadership wants to work cooperatively with the chief and the city government.
“I love the idea that the chairman is saying everything is not a fight, and everything doesn’t have to be adversarial,” the Post quoted Lanier as saying.
Mahl served as acting supervisor and later as supervisor of the then-Gay and Lesbian Liaison Unit from July 2012 to March 2015, when Sgt. Jessica Hawkins, the current supervisor, succeeded Mahl.
Since leaving the GLLU, Mahl has worked as a patrol supervisor in the Sixth Police District. He told the Blade on Jan. 15 that under a longstanding arrangement between the union and the department, the chairman of the union works full-time as the union CEO and no longer performs regular police duties.
“That’s something I’m going to miss,” he said.