The chair of the D.C. Anti-Violence Project, which formerly was called Gays and Lesbians Opposing Violence or GLOV, told a City Council hearing on March 2 that the presence of the police department’s LGBT Liaison Unit has been “greatly diminished” in recent years.
D.C. AVP Chair Stephania Mahdi presented the group’s concerns over the current direction of the LGBT Liaison Unit in testimony before a police oversight hearing conducted by the D.C. Council Committee on the Judiciary.
“In January 2016 the D.C. police department made the problematic decision to end the LGBT Liaison Unit’s midnight shift,” Mahdi told the committee. “The midnight shift has often been the unit’s busiest time period; higher rates of violent crime and domestic violence occurs during late-night hours,” she said.
“The unit has also seen a sharp reduction in its full-time staff,” she continued. “Furthermore, liaison officers are being tasked to unrelated patrol duties for a majority of their shift. One could deduce that officer response time and focus on LGBT-related calls for service has been greatly diminished,” she said.
Added Mahdi in her testimony: “The truth of the matter is the LGBT community does not feel the same level of support from the Liaison Unit that they have received in previous years.”
D.C. Police Chief Cathy Lanier, who also testified before the committee, said LGBT Liaison Unit affiliate officers have been responding to calls for LGBT-related matters during the midnight shift and at other times. The affiliate officers are assigned to each of the department’s seven police districts.
Lanier also said that the full-time LGBT Liaison Unit officers are on call at all times and have responded to LGBT-related calls during the midnight shift. During the past year Lanier has said the department was facing a shortage of officers due to a “retirement bubble” and she has had to reassign officers in various specialized units to street patrol duties during part of their daily shifts.
LGBT activists, including officials with the DC AVP, have expressed concerns that the LGBT affiliate officers may not have received the training needed to enable them to carry out liaison unit duties. Activists have said the department may also have cut back on the number of officers taking a longstanding LGBT cultural competency course.
“The department’s support of a robust dedicated liaison unit, carefully vetted and trained liaison officers, support of the LGBT cultural competency course, and finally the restoration of the LGBT Liaison Unit’s midnight shift” are actions the department should take in the coming months, Mahdi said.