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D.C. Police LGBT unit ‘greatly diminished’

Head of anti-violence group says improvements needed

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Cathy Lanier, MPD, Metropolitan Police Department, gay news, Washington Blade

D.C. Police Chief Cathy Lanier said LGBT Liaison Unit affiliate officers have been responding to calls for LGBT-related matters during the midnight shift and at other times.(Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

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.

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2 Comments

2 Comments

  1. Brian's Ions

    March 4, 2016 at 6:55 pm

    DCAVP is not going to get a serious response from DC Council’s homophobic liars and anti-police bigots, Kenyan McDuffie and Phil Mendelson.

    They will both feign concern– and maybe provide some empty promises and hearings. But there is a pattern of homophobic/ transphobic hypocrisy and intentional neglect in both politicians’ lack of demand for effective LGBT public safety protection.

    And it is highly questionable whether DCAVP’s new officers understand how much they are effectively controlled (or quietly influenced) by MPD’s ties to DC’s ADL and ADL’s ties to and/or funding of The DC Center.

    Obviously, the real or potential conflicts of interest can be problematic, since each entity in that tangled web has competing interests with one or more others.

    Hopefully DCAVP has a level of independence (and therefore, greater public credibility and power) than GLOV appears to have been granted by TDCC.

    Both the LGBTQ public and DCAVP should understand that the slashing of the LGBTLU (GLLU) happened to a much larger degree than the despicable slashing of MPD’s overall sworn police force by, effectively, at least 600 officers– when taking into account DC’s increased population growth of nearly 100,000 in roughly the same period of time.

    Judiciary/Public Safety Chair McDuffie, AND former CM and J/PS Chair Tommy Wells, AND their predecessor as J/PS Chair, now-Council Chairman Mendelson all presided over that secretive, nearly decade-long de facto slashing of MPD’s total sworn police force by 600 officers or more.

    Mendelson, Wells and McDuffie were joined in this dishonest, stealthy cutting of DC police force protection by the acquiescence and/or agreement of THREE successive mayors– Fenty, Gray and now Bowser.

    Despite their half-truth/ half-lies to the contrary, Mendelson, Wells and McDuffie all knew these cuts by attrition and population growth were occurring to MPD — AND GLLU (now, LGBTLU) and were happy to help cutting DC’s police because they had and/or have an apparent degree of personal and/or political bias against MPD’s rank-and-file police officers.

    During this same period, Chief Lanier has slashed MPD’s LGBTLU (formerly, GLLU) down to next to nothing. It is fair to say that Lanier has never been a fan of the LGBT unit and, especially, its separate liaison station at Dupont Circle. Nor did Lanier like the overall Community Policing model former Chief Charles H. Ramsey left her in 2007. That’s mostly due to a difference in police management philosophy I believe.

    However, a tipping-point in MPD’s force size has been exceeded, I think.

    Now, MPD’s overall police force has been slashed so much, that even if Lanier wanted to (or was directed to) rebuild LGBTLU/GLLU and other Special Liaison police services, she simply doesn’t have the needed sworn membership to do that.

    It appears Council is more opposed to an effective MPD force size than Mayor Bowser is. But Mayor Bowser should lead the city in demanding that Council stop their resistance to an effective police force size for patrol visibility, mobility and protection. That’s what provably deters violent crime.

    Just as importantly, Bowser should VETO McDuffie’s homophobic, violent crime encouragement SCAM, ‘NEAR’ until its SECRET $9,000-payoff to violent criminals is dropped.

    Council’s NEAR scam will do more to encourage violent crime– including violent anti-LGBT hate crimes– than anything else, but perhaps, more slashes in MPD’s effective force strength.
     .

  2. Keith Cumbie

    March 7, 2016 at 1:48 pm

    I get so tired of being treated as a 2nd class citizen.

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District of Columbia

Dupont Circle ‘gayborhood’ preserved in Council redistricting bill

All of neighborhood remains in Ward 2

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Brooke Pinto, gay news, Washington Blade
Councilmember Brooke Pinto raised objections to dividing the Dupont Circle neighborhood into two different wards.

A bill approved by the D.C. Council in a first-reading vote on Tuesday to redraw the boundaries of the city’s eight wards keeps all of the Dupont Circle neighborhood, which LGBTQ activists have referred to as the city’s preeminent “gayborhood,” in Ward 2.

The redistricting plan approved by the Council included a change from an earlier proposal by a special redistricting subcommittee that called for transferring part of the North Dupont Circle neighborhood into Ward 1.

Councilmember Brooke Pinto, who represents Ward 2, joined many of her ward’s LGBTQ residents in raising strong objections to dividing the Dupont Circle neighborhood into two different wards.

A number of LGBTQ residents, including Mike Silverstein, one of five openly gay members of the nine-member Dupont Circle Advisory Neighborhood Commission, said the initial subcommittee proposal would unnecessarily split Dupont Circle’s historic “gayborhood,” which he said has served as a safe space for LGBTQ D.C. residents for decades.

“Excising this part of Ward 2 would arbitrarily cut off the LGBTQIA+ community that has such a rich and pronounced presence in North Dupont,” Pinto said in a statement her office released last month. “I will be working with my colleagues to ensure that this community remains in Ward 2,” Pinto said.

A spokesperson for D.C. Council Chair Phil Mendelson (D-At-Large) said Mendelson worked with the three members of the redistricting subcommittee and other Council members to make some changes to the subcommittee’s initial release of three proposed maps with redrawn ward boundary lines. All three of the maps included plans to move the north part of Dupont Circle to Ward 1, each of which was dropped in the final proposal approved by the Council.

The Council is scheduled to hold a second and final vote on the redistricting measure later this month.

City officials have noted that a redrawing of the city’s ward boundary lines is needed to bring the city into legal conformance with the 2020 U.S. Census count for D.C., which shows shifts in population within the city.

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District of Columbia

U.S. Attorney’s Office declines to prosecute anti-gay assault case

D.C. police report says man beaten by neighbors in Northeast

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Antonio Zephir was beaten by neighbors. (Photo courtesy of Zephir)

The U.S. Attorney’s Office has declined to prosecute two women and a man who, according to a D.C. police report, assaulted a gay man after one of the women called him a “Jewish faggot” during an Oct. 13 incident on the grounds of a Northeast Washington apartment building where the victim and the two women live.

The victim, Antonio Zephir, 51, said one of the women, her daughter, and a man he believes to be the daughter’s father repeatedly punched him in the face after he shouted back at the mother in response to the anti-gay and anti-Jewish slur he says she hurled at him.

The incident took place outside the Northwood Gardens Apartments at 4870 Fort Totten Dr., N.E. at about 12:40 p.m. the police report says.

Zephir told the Blade this week that an official with the U.S. Attorney’s Office, which prosecutes crimes committed by adults in D.C., informed him in a phone call that the office decided not to prosecute the case after police and prosecutors viewed a surveillance camera video that reportedly captured the entire incident.

He said the official, Crystal Flournoy, Deputy Chief of the U.S. Attorney’s Office’s Early Case Assessment Section, told him the video showed that he was the “aggressor” in the incident.

Zephir says he strongly disputes that characterization and believes the camera angle from the video may not have captured the full altercation in which he was assaulted first before attempting to defend himself.

A D.C. police spokesperson said police opened an investigation into the incident after Zephir called police immediately after the altercation. A police report lists the incident as a suspected anti-gay hate crime and lists the offense as a misdemeanor simple assault.

Zephir, who was treated and released from the Washington Hospital Center the day after the incident, suffered a fractured nose, a fractured bone surrounding one of his eyes, and other facial injuries, according to a hospital report he provided to the Blade. He said his doctor told him he may need facial surgery to treat ongoing effects from the injuries.

In a Dec. 7 email, a copy of which Zephir sent to the Blade, D.C. Police Lt. Scott Dowling informed Zephir that the U.S Attorney’s Office declined to process an affidavit submitted by police requesting the case be prosecuted.

“[T]he affidavit submitted to the United States Attorney’s Office was declined, meaning that their office is not willing to move forward with criminal charges,” Dowling told Zephir in his email message. “As a result, there will be no arrests relating to the offense you reported,” Dowling said. “As the Affidavit was declined, our investigation is closed,” Dowling wrote in the message.

“The U.S. Attorney’s Office declined to prosecute this matter after reviewing the evidence,” William Miller, a spokesperson for the office, told the Blade in a statement on Wednesday. “Beyond that, we typically do not comment on charging decisions and have no further comment,” Miller said.

Zephir said he doesn’t think the video, which he hasn’t seen, shows that one of the two women involved in the altercation was the first to assault him. He identified her in court papers he filed seeking a stay away protection order as Aurlora Ellis.

Court records show that a D.C. Superior Court judge on Nov. 30 issued a “Consent Stay Away Order” requiring Ellis and her daughter, identified as Latera Cox, and a woman who Zephir says lives at Ellis’s apartment, to “stay at least 100 feet away from Plaintiffs Zephir or Johnson.”

Steve Johnson, who is cited in the stay away order, is Zephir’s roommate who the police report says attempted to stop the Oct. 13 altercation in which Zephir says he was assaulted.

The court order further states that the three women “shall not contact Plaintiffs Zephir or Johnson in any manner, including but not limited to by telephone, in writing, and in any manner directly or indirectly through another person, including social media,” and that the order will remain in effect for one year.

“Ms. Ellis was the person who made those threats and slurs against me,” Zephir said. “I responded with not-so-kind words. She ran towards me and assaulted me with hard punches toward my face,” Zephir recounted. “I punched back in an attempt to defend myself,” he said.

According to Zephir, during the altercation Ellis told him, “Call the police, you bitch faggot. They’re not going to do anything. This isn’t over yet.” He said he continues to worry that Ellis’s comment that the matter “isn’t over yet” was a threat and that she may try to harm him again.

Ellis couldn’t immediately be reached for comment.

Zephir said the October altercation wasn’t the first time Ellis has acted in a hostile way toward him.

“For several months, every time Ms. Ellis sees me, she shouts homophobic slurs and I continued to ignore her,” he told the Blade in October after contacting the Blade about the incident.

On Tuesday, Zephir told the Blade that Ellis later apologized for the altercation and asked him to drop the charges he filed against her with D.C. police. He said he declined her request, but said he’s now dismayed that the U.S. Attorney’s Office has refused to prosecute what he calls a “serious hate crime” against him.

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District of Columbia

Dignity Washington opens new center in Dupont Circle

Proceeds from sale of old building used to expand programming

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Dignity Washington President Tom Yates. (Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

The local LGBTQ Catholic organization Dignity Washington recently opened its new Dignity Center office and community meeting space at a Dupont Circle condominium building that includes first-floor offices for small businesses and community organizations.

Dignity Washington President Tom Yates said the new space at the Imperial House condominium building at 1601 18th Street, N.W., is currently being used as Dignity’s office headquarters and for meetings of the group’s board and committees. He said as COVID-related restrictions are relaxed the space will be used for various events and possible use by other LGBTQ community organizations.

Yates said the group purchased the 1,700-square-foot office space in March of this year, eight months after selling its former Dignity Center building at 721 8th St., S.E., in the Barracks Row section of Capitol Hill. Dignity officials have said the Capitol Hill building was larger than the space the group needed and the proceeds from its sale would provide funds to expand its programs.

“Dignity Washington, making use of the fiscal support made possible by the change of properties, hopes to become more active speaking truth to power of the Catholic Church,” Yates told the Blade. “The new facility is only a handful of blocks from the Cathedral of St. Matthew,” he said, referring to one of the city’s largest Catholic churches.

Noting the Catholic Church’s historic lack of support for the LGBTQ community, Yates said the proximity of the new Dignity Center would help the group’s mission of showing “the local same-sex community that one can be both Catholic and same-sex loving.” 

Yates said Dignity Washington, founded in 1972, is the largest chapter of the national LGBTQ Catholic organization Dignity USA. 

Dignity Washington, among other things, organizes a weekly 6 p.m. Sunday Mass for LGBTQ Catholics and their friends and families at St. Margaret’s Episcopal Church at 1830 Connecticut Ave., N.W.

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