October 20, 1997
Assistant Chief Sonya Proctor
Metropolitan Police Department
300 Indiana Avenue, N.W., Room 5080
Washington, D.C. 20001
Dear Chief Proctor:
We are writing to ask you to make two changes in the flier headlined "Open Test, Metropolitan Police Department" that is now being circulated throughout the District.
First, we ask you to rephrase the section under "Qualifications" that currently reads: "Background investigation which determines moral suitability." The term "moral suitability" is highly ambiguous and is open to subjective interpretations both by potential applicants and by the staff of the Metropolitan Police Department. In the past, terms like "moral suitability" have been used as a pretext by government agencies, at both the federal and local levels around the nation, to exclude otherwise qualified lesbians and gay men from public service. We know you well enough to realize that this is certainly not your intention. Nevertheless, lower-ranking officers involved in the selection process may not share your commitment to fair play for gay people and may interpret the term "moral suitability" as an invitation to indulge their personal prejudices. By the same token, lesbians and gay men who see this phrase may be needlessly discouraged from applying. Substituting more pointed, neutral language such as "Criminal background check" as one of the Qualifications in the flier may avoid these problems.
Second, the flier should include an Equal Employment Opportunity policy statement that explicitly enumerates all of the categories that are protected from arbitrary employment discrimination under the D.C. Human Rights Law of 1977. Those categories are: race, color, religion, national origin, sex, age, marital status, personal appearance, sexual orientation, family responsibilities, physical handicap, matriculation, or political affiliation. Please note that a mere statement that "The Metropolitan Police Department is an Equal Opportunity Employer," without listing the protected categories, is not sufficient. The D.C. Human Rights Law is far more comprehensive than the federal civil rights laws, which at this time fail to prohibit arbitrary discrimination against lesbians and gay men. The District enjoys a competitive advantage by virtue of its broader anti-discrimination laws, and potential applicants should be made fully aware of that fact.
We congratulate you on your recent promotion and have no doubt that you will do an outstanding job in your new capacity as an Assistant Police Chief. Best wishes.
Richard J. Rosendall
Gay and Lesbian Activists Alliance of Washington, DC
cc: The Honorable Jack Evans
Gay Men & Lesbians Opposing Violence
The Washington Blade