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D.C. police chief: ‘Community Engagement Policing’ will address hate crimes

Mayor, MPD announce new strategies to combat violence

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D.C. Police Chief Robert Contee (Photo public domain)

A ‘Focused Patrol and Community Engagement Policing Strategy’ announced last week by D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser and D.C. Police Chief Robert Contee to combat the rising incidents of violent crime in the city will have a positive impact in addressing hate crimes targeting the LGBTQ community, according to Contee.

Bowser and Contee provided details of what they said is an expanded version of the existing community engagement policies in place for D.C. police officers at an April 27 news conference.

In response to a question from the Washington Blade asking if the expanded community engagement strategy would help police investigate and prevent hate crimes, including those targeting the LGBTQ community, Contee said a key to investigating hate crimes is building a relationship of trust between the police and members of the community who are at risk of becoming victims of a hate crime.

“So, one thing it might very well do is strengthen that relationship,” Contee said. “And so, with that you can see an actual increase in the reporting because people are more comfortable having those conversations with our police officers,” he said.

He was referring to the belief by police officials and community activists that many hate crimes in D.C. and other locations go unreported because victims, especially LGBTQ victims, are often reluctant to call police or other law enforcement agencies.

D.C. police hate crime statistics show that for at least the past five years the largest number of reported hate crimes involve LGBTQ people as victims, with the victim’s “sexual orientation” having the highest number of cases compared to other categories such as race, religion, or ethnicity.

The second highest “victim” category is an individual’s gender identity as a transgender person, the D.C. police statistics show.

“This is actually about a police officer who gets out of their car who’s engaging with and who they have a relationship with” members of the community, Contee said in referring to the expanded community engagement policy.

A joint statement released by the mayor’s office and the Metropolitan Police Department says the new policing strategy “will utilize data to identify specific areas in each police district and employ focused patrols for proactive policing, community engagement, and problem solving within a small geographical area.”

The statement adds, “The MPD members assigned to these areas will proactively engage in business and building checks, assist in traffic enforcement, collaborate with the community, and identify area-specific issues with police officials to problem solve and determine necessary solutions to community concerns and crime.”  

News of the expanded community engagement policing plans came about three months after gay Dupont Circle Advisory Neighborhood Commissioner Vincent Slatt expressed concern that Dupont Circle area residents, including LGBTQ residents, were being targeted for armed robberies including carjackings by juveniles coming to the neighborhood from other parts of the city.

Slatt and others who spoke at a community listening session organized by D.C. Attorney General Brian Schwalb, whose office oversees prosecuting juvenile offenders, called for changing the existing city law that prevents the public disclosure of the outcome of cases where a juvenile is arrested for a violent crime.       

“The mayor’s announcement of a shift to data-driven decisions on policing strategies is both a welcome and concerning announcement,” Slatt told the Blade. “As a data librarian, I can say that data-driven policy is, in fact, a good thing, however there is both ‘good’ and ‘bad’ data,” he said. “Full disclosure on the data being used, how it is collected and shared, are important for it to work well and to build community trust.”

Slatt said he has not yet seen a noticeable change in policing in the Dupont Circle neighborhood but continues to see an ongoing police presence that has been a part of the area in the recent past, including a police car parked outside the gay bar Larry’s Lounge not far from Dupont Circle. One suggestion he said that could enhance police presence would be for the MPD to set up “mini” police stations in some of the vacant storefront buildings across the city.

The official announcement of the expanded community engagement policing policy also came one day after Chief Contee surprised city officials and community activists by announcing he will retire from his position as police chief on June 1 to take a new job as an assistant director at the FBI.

Contee’s departure ends his 33-year career with the MPD, which began in his role as a police cadet at the age of 17 and continued with a steady rise in the ranks of the department leading to his nomination by Bowser to become chief in December 2020 and the D.C. Council’s confirmation of his appointment in January 2021.

“He has pushed our criminal justice system to do more and be better,” Bowser said in a statement in response to Contee’s plans for leaving. “He has led MPD through an incredibly challenging time for our country – from the pandemic to January 6th and navigating the effects of a shrinking department during a time when gun violence is exploding across the nation,” the mayor said.

“He has been a phenomenal ambassador of what it means to be a police officer in D.C. – brilliant, compassionate, and determined to build a D.C. where all people feel safe and are safe,” Bowser concluded.

LGBTQ activists familiar with the D.C. police have said Contee has been one of the MPD’s most LGBTQ supportive police chiefs. He has been credited with being a strong supporter of the department’s LGBT Liaison Unit.

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District of Columbia

Capital Pride announces 2024 Pride honorees

Nine LGBTQ leaders, Destination DC to be honored

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Iya Dammons is among this year’s Pride honorees. (Washington Blade file photo by Lou Chibbaro, Jr.)

Capital Pride Alliance, the group that organizes D.C.’s annual LGBTQ Pride events, has announced its selection of nine individuals and one D.C. organization as recipients of its annual honors awards recognizing outstanding service for the LGBTQ community and the cause of LGBTQ equality.

“Each year, the Capital Pride Alliance honors outstanding individuals, leaders, and activists in the National Capital Region who have furthered causes important to the LGBTQ+ community,” the group said in a statement. The statement says the honorees chosen this year “tirelessly contribute to our collective advocacy, outreach, education, and programming in support of our intersectional community.”

The awards were scheduled to be presented to the recipients at a Capital Pride Honors ceremony on Friday, May 31 at the MGM National Harbor in Oxon Hill, Md. A statement released by Capital Pride says the event will be hosted by WUSA9 TV news reporter Lorenzo Hall, with entertainment by special guests, including singer-songwriter Crystal Waters, DJ Honey, and the Black Leaves Dance Company.

The award recipients as released by Capital Pride Alliance include the following:

Hero Award recognizing  “individuals who have furthered the causes important to LGBTQ+ community in the national capital region” and “have brought about positive changes to our lives and our community.”

• Hope Gisselle, nationally recognized author, artist, and activist who advocates for LGBTQ rights through organizations she has been a part of, including her founding of a human resources organization called AllowMe and her current role as CEO and Executive Director of the National Trans Visibility March.

• Jamison Henninger, has served as leader of the D.C. Area Transmasculine Society, known as DCATS, a community-based organization that aids transmasculine individuals in the D.C. metro area, serves on the board of Trans Pride DC, and serves as a consultant for Gender Illumination, a nonprofit group.

• Kenya Hutton, a social justice, equity, HIV prevention, and sexual health advocate who has worked to address issues impacting communities affected by HIV and other health disparities for over 20 years. He currently serves as deputy director of the D.C.-based national LGBTQ organization Center for Black Equity and is set to become its acting CEO and executive director in August.

• Carol Jameson has worked for more than 35 years in Northern Virginia developing and administering programs that address health care disparities and provide access to health care services, including HIV/AIDS related services. She has served as executive director for NOVAM, a nonprofit group providing HIV prevention and HIV care for adolescents and young adults in Northern Virginia.

• Tula, an esthetician and hair stylist by day, has been a widely recognized drag performer for more than 30 years and host to D.C. cabaret shows. A former title holder and member of the Academy of Washington, D.C. drag organization, “she brings a plethora of stage experience to any show,” according to a Capital Pride writeup.

• Jose Alberto Ucles has been involved with a wide range of LGBTQ supportive events and projects both culturally and politically while working in his day job for the past 23 years as the Hispanic Outreach Spokesperson and Public Affairs Specialist for the U.S. National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. Some of his many involvements include past work with the Whitman-Walker Clinic, Capital Pride organizing in the 1990s, and currently a member of the Arts & Culture Committee for World Pride 2025 DC.

Breaking Barriers Community Impact Award recognizes individuals or organizations who have demonstrated significant impact on the LGBTQ+ community and helped eliminate barriers for social, personal or professional growth of the LGBTQ+ community.

• Iya Dammons, a widely recognized transgender and LGBTQ rights advocate is the founding Executive Director of DC Safe Haven and Maryland Safe Haven, the nonprofit organizations credited with providing support and services for LGBTQ people experiencing homelessness, substance use problems at risk of an overdose, and discrimination based on their gender identity or sexual orientation.

The Bill Miles Award for Outstanding Volunteer Service acknowledges exemplary contributions to the Capital Pride Alliance and its programs, initiatives or other Pride sponsored activities.

• Bryan Davis is an accomplished Sign Language interpreter trained at D.C.’s Gallaudet University who currently serves as Volunteer Chair with Capital Pride Alliance and previously has served as Executive Producer and Chair for Accessibility and Interpreter Coordinator for Capital Pride.

• William Hawkins has since 2017 been a committed volunteer for Capital Pride as part of its production team and as Executive Producer of Health and Safety and later as Health and Safety Chair. He is credited with helping to form alliances with G.W. Hospital, the D.C. Fire & Emergency Medical Services Department, and the D.C. Licensing Division.

Larry Stansbury Award for Exemplary Contributions to Pride recognizes outstanding efforts related to programs and initiatives of the annual Capital Pride Alliance or Pride movement.

• Destination DC, a private, nonprofit corporation, serves as the lead organization to successfully manage and market Washington, D.C. as a premier global convention, tourism, and special events destination, with a special emphasis on the arts, cultural and historical communities. It is credited with generating economic development for the city through visitor spending.

Further details about the Capital Pride honorees and the May 31 event, including availability of admission tickets, can be accessed at their website.

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District of Columbia

D.C. mayor to hold 2nd annual LGBTQ flag raising ceremony

Event set for June 3 outside District Building

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Mayor Muriel Bowser speaks at last year's flag ceremony outside of the John A. Wilson Building. (Washington Blade file photo by Michael Key)

D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser’s Office of LGBTQ Affairs announced this week the mayor will lead the city’s second annual LGBTQIA+ Flag Raising Ceremony at 4 p.m. on June 3 outside the John A. Wilson Building at 1350 Pennsylvania Ave., N.W., which serves as the D.C. government’s city hall.

“We are delighted to invite you to the LGBTQIA+ Flag Raising Ceremony, a significant event celebrating the visibility and diversity of our LGBTQIA+ community,” said Japer Bowles, director of the Mayor’s LGBTQ Affairs Office, in a May 21 statement.

“Join us as we raise the LGBTQIA+ flag alongside Mayor Muriel Bowser, D.C. Council members, and community leaders,” Bowles said in the statement. “This event is free and open to the public, and we encourage everyone to attend,” the statement says.

“Washington, D.C. is proud to be a leader in LGBTQIA+ rights and advocacy,” the statement adds. “This ceremony symbolizes our ongoing commitment to equality and the vibrant diversity of our community.”

The event was expected to take place on the sidewalk in front of the Wilson building at the site of its flagpole.

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District of Columbia

Capital Stonewall Democrats clarifies ‘no endorsement’ of Pinto

Says it postponed action on Ward 2 D.C. race until November

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D.C. Council member Brooke Pinto. (Washington Blade file photo by Michael Key)

The president of the Capital Stonewall Democrats, D.C.’s largest local LGBTQ political group, expressed regret that he did not clarify in an announcement earlier this week that the organization chose to postpone deciding whether to endorse D.C. Council member Brooke Pinto (D-Ward 2) in the city’s June 4 primary election because she is running unopposed in the primary.

“I misspoke, and I take responsibility for that,” Michael Haresign, the group’s president, told the Washington Blade on Thursday. Haresign said that he regrets that he did not inform the Blade in a May 21 interview at a post endorsement party the group held that Pinto’s name was not on the endorsement ballot the group sent to its members earlier this month to vote on the endorsements.

Based on a press release issued by the group on May 21, the Blade reported that Capital Stonewall Democrats announced it had endorsed just four candidates appearing on D.C.’s June 4 primary ballot – President Joe Biden, D.C. Council members Robert White (D-At-Large) and Janeese Lewis Geroge (D-Ward 4), and D.C.’s U.S. Shadow Representative Oye Owolewa (D).

Among the candidates not endorsed that surprised some in the LGBTQ community were Pinto and D.C. Congressional Delegate Eleanor Holmes Norton (D),  who, like Pinto, is a strong LGBTQ community supporter. In the group’s May 21 press release it did not disclose that Pinto’s name was not on the group’s endorsement ballot.

Elizabeth Mitchell, Capital Stonewall’s Vice President for Legislative and Political Affairs, and Austin Naughton, a member of the group’s endorsement committee from Ward 2, contacted the Blade by email on May 23 to point out that the group decided at the committee’s recommendation to postpone a decision on whether to endorse Pinto, and the membership did not vote on a Pinto endorsement.

 “We made a careful and considerate decision as an election committee to not impose upon CM Pinto’s busy schedule at this time as there was no challenger for the primary,” Mitchell told the Blade in an email. “We assured CM Pinto and her campaign that we would revisit the subject of endorsement after the primary as it’s possible a challenger may emerge at that time,” said Mitchell, who added that the group was unaware of anyone emerging to challenge Pinto in the November election.

“As such, we did not include her on our endorsement ballot,” Mitchell said. Mitchell was also referring to the decision not to invite Pinto to one of the group’s candidate forums related to the June 4 primary, even though Pinto made it clear she would be happy to participate in a forum.  

No candidates have emerged in the June 4 primary to challenge Pinto either as Democrats or as members of the city’s two other registered political parties – the Republican and Statehood Green parties. An independent candidate could emerge to challenge Pinto in the November general election, and voters are eligible to vote for a write-in candidate in both the primary and general election.

Mitchell said Norton’s office did not respond to an invitation to participate in the Capital Stonewall Democrats first of two candidate forums and told the group a conflict in her schedule prevented Norton from attending the group’s second candidates forum.

“Her office sent us a very professional letter explaining that she had a prior engagement the evening of our forum and would be unable to attend,” Mitchell said. “We explained that to our members,” according to Mitchell, who added, “She was on our ballot and failed to receive enough votes to win an endorsement.”

 Under the group’s endorsement policy, candidates must receive at least 60 percent of the vote from the members to receive an endorsement. Under that policy, Haresign said the group also did not make an endorsement for the Ward 7 and Ward 8 D.C. Council races or in the race for the D.C. U.S. Shadow Senator seat because no candidate received a 60 percent vote threshold.

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