March 16, 2016 at 9:56 am EDT | by Lou Chibbaro Jr.
Gay cop sues city for release of email, phone records

Justin Markiewicz, gay news, Washington Blade

Justin Markiewicz (Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

Metropolitan Police Department Officer Justin Markiewicz, a former member of the department’s LGBT Liaison Unit, is suing the D.C. government to obtain email and cell phone records of several police officials, including Police Chief Cathy Lanier.

Court records show Markiewicz filed a complaint in D.C. Superior Court on Oct. 28, 2015 that accuses the city of failing to respond to a Freedom of Information Act request he filed last year to obtain the email and phone records within the legal deadline of 25 business days.

“More than 25 days, excluding weekends and holidays, has elapsed and the District of Columbia has failed to either make the requested public record accessible or notify the person making such request of its determination not to make the requested public record or any part thereof accessible and the reasons therefore,” the complaint says.

The complaint doesn’t say why Markiewicz filed the FOIA request and doesn’t disclose the nature of the email or cell phone records he’s seeking.

But his FOIA complaint was filed at a time when police sources said Markiewicz was considering taking legal action against the department for alleged retaliation against him following an internal police harassment complaint he filed in August 2014 against a captain that Markiewicz reportedly says targeted him for anti-gay harassment.

According to police sources, Markiewicz’s complaint — filed with the department’s Internal Affairs Division — accused then-Capt. Edward Delgado of repeatedly referring to him as “Justine” in person and in email messages. The complaint reportedly claimed Delgado also referred to Markiewicz as “Justine” in email messages to other police officials, including Lanier and Deputy Chief Diane Groomes.

At the time the harassment complaint was filed, former police spokesperson Gwendolyn Crump told the Blade the department considers such complaints confidential personnel matters and doesn’t disclose the outcome of the internal investigation of the complaint.

The Washington Blade discovered Markiewicz’s Superior Court FOIA lawsuit through a search of public court records after D.C. LGBT Community Center Director David Mariner earlier this month published a GoFundMe appeal on Markiewicz’s behalf.

“Currently Justin is in a costly legal battle with the Police Department,” Mariner states on the GoFundMe site. “Ultimately he hopes that at the end of the battle MPD will take complaints made by LGBT officers seriously and protect them from future retaliation and harassment,” Mariner says on the site.

Markiewicz declined to comment when contacted by the Blade, saying a police department policy prohibits officers from talking to the media.

Capt. Sean Conboy, a police spokesperson, did not respond to a Blade request for comment. Mariner couldn’t immediately be reached for comment.

Court records show that D.C. Attorney General Karl Racine, who represents the city in lawsuits, filed a motion in February calling on the court to dismiss the FOIA case on grounds that Markiewicz’s attorney missed the deadline for officially serving legal papers notifying the city about the suit.

According to Racine’s motion, a process server for Markiewicz’s attorney delivered the legal papers on Jan. 4, 2015, seven days past the Dec. 28 deadline. In a brief responding to the motion to dismiss, attorney Matthew August LeFande, who’s representing Markiewicz, disputes Racine’s claim, saying the papers were filed within the deadline.

Superior Court Judge John Campbell has yet to rule on the motion. A status hearing on the case is scheduled for April 8.

As of March 15, the GoFundMe site for Markiewicz says it has raised $5,200, which exceeds its initial goal of raising $5,000 to help cover Markiewicz’s legal expenses.

“In 2014 Justin was forced to file a complaint against the captain who managed the Gay and Lesbian Liaison Unit for repeated homophobic remarks,” Mariner states on the fundraising website. “The police department failed to respond correctly and immediately after he made his complaint Justin began to be retaliated against,” Mariner says.

“He was denied overtime, subjected to unfair discipline, and suspended,” Mariner states. “MPD failed to properly investigate the homophobic remarks Justin was subjected to and as many as eight months after the complaint the police department was continuing to refer to Justin as the same homophobic name on official police documents,” according to Mariner.

Lou Chibbaro Jr. has reported on the LGBT civil rights movement and the LGBT community for more than 30 years, beginning as a freelance writer and later as a staff reporter and currently as Senior News Reporter for the Washington Blade. He has chronicled LGBT-related developments as they have touched on a wide range of social, religious, and governmental institutions, including the White House, Congress, the U.S. Supreme Court, the military, local and national law enforcement agencies and the Catholic Church. Chibbaro has reported on LGBT issues and LGBT participation in local and national elections since 1976. He has covered the AIDS epidemic since it first surfaced in the early 1980s. Follow Lou

  • What a disturbing news report. Let’s hope the Blade can followup and get to the bottom of this apparent anti-LGBT harassment and discrimination at MPD.

    Just how many LGBT officers are being harassed and otherwise discriminated against?

    Kudos to Officers Markiewicz and Lilly for bringing MPD’s anti-LGBT harassment and discrimination to public attention. Likewise, kudos to The DC Center and David Mariner for aiding in this essential community effort.

    A police department that has no problem harassing and discriminating against LGBT police officers will surely have no problem harassing and discriminating against LGBT residents and businesses it is sworn to serve and protect.

    Here’s the link to the GoFundMe site referenced above.
    …This is not the first time this has happened. As we speak, Officer Christopher Lilly is also in a legal fight with the Metropolitan police department because they did not address the anti-LGBT harassment and discrimination he experienced from the MPD. This has to stop…”**
    –David Mariner

    • Thanks Brian,

      While I don’t think anyone is in a position to publicly comment about Officer Lilly’s case, the complaint is a public document press should be able to find through court records. I would love to see more attention placed on this case as well.

      • Thank YOU, David. I hope our terrific LGBT reporters can drill down on Ofcr. Lilly’s case, as well.

        It’s an important point you remind us of. MPD’s sworn officers can not publicly comment on their own cases and complaints. All of that disclosure must be done through the expensive legal process.

        So our city’s LGBT police officers very much need the advice and support of The DC Center and DC’s LGBT communities.

        Likewise, DC’s LGBT residents, businesses and victims of hate crimes and intimate partner violence need the support of an independent, robust DC DC Anti-Violence Project (DCAVP)…

        We also need to address the underlying cause of why MPD’s LGBT Liaison Unit (formerly, GLLU) has been slashed to next to nothing. That’s due to intentional neglect by Mendelson’s Council. Council has slashed MPD’s citywide force by 300 cops through attrition.

        Add to that another 300 officers that should have been recruited to provide BASIC policing services for the 50,000 additional residents DC added in the last 5 years.

        So DC is now short at least 600 cops. That works out to about 10 cops per each MPD PSA neighborhood (‘Police Service Area”). And the LGBTLU needs 6 more cops to restore its prior strength.

        There is absolutely no excuse for this violent crime encouragement policy by Phil Mendelson and Kenyan McDuffie. After recruiting and training costs, 600 cops would cost DC a fraction of ONE percent of the city’s nearly 15 billion dollar budget.

        Chief Lanier gave fair warning to Council years ago. WaPo and Colby King reported and commented on DC’s police shortage just last December…

        WaPo/ Colby King/ D.C.’s dangerous police shortage…

        **Residents say crime is Washington’s No. 1 problem, poll finds**

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