GLAA demands local funding for CCRB
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Testimony for Budget Hearings
on Police and Corrections

Committee on the Judiciary
D.C. Council

MARCH 29, 1999

Chairman Brazil, Members of the Committee, and Fellow Citizens:

My name is Rick Rosendall. I am Public Safety Coordinator and immediate past president of the Gay and Lesbian Activists Alliance of Washington (GLAA), the nation's oldest continuously active gay and lesbian civil rights organization.

We welcome these budget hearings as a valuable opportunity to ensure adequate funding of all aspects of the Metropolitan Police Department and to underscore the importance of these budgetary decisions to the safety and welfare of the District's Gay and Lesbian community.

As you are aware, the relationship between the Metropolitan Police Department and the gay and lesbian community has at times been rocky. A number of incidents in recent years served to undermine trust on the part of gay citizens toward the police. Not the least of these was the blackmail operation conducted by Lt. Jeffrey Stowe, which led to the resignation of his house mate, former Police Chief Larry Soulsby.

One of the most important things done to rebuild relations was the involvement of gay and lesbian community leaders, including myself, in the search process that culminated in the appointment of Charles Ramsey as Chief of the MPD.

The other was the re-establishment of the Civilian Complaint Review Board to investigate allegations of police misconduct. With so many others throughout the District, we had been dismayed when the Council arbitrarily abolished the old Civilian Complaint Review Board in 1995 without providing for any kind of replacement mechanism. We therefore worked with this committee, as well as the local chapters of the NAACP, the ACLU, and others, to help craft the legislation for a new and stronger Civilian Complaint Review Board.

That law went into effect about a month ago, but to date, we know of no efforts to implement the law and create the Board. Staff must be hired, office space must be secured, and the $1.2 million in federal startup funds must be spent by September 30. In other words, time is a-wasting.

We applaud Councilmember David Catania for his successful effort to obtain this one-time appropriation, which had the key support of Chief Ramsey. In addition to our eagerness to see the new CCRB get off the ground, we are concerned about the District's loss of credibility if it should fail to spend these much-needed funds.

Perhaps even more serious is the omission of local funding for the CCRB from the Mayor's FY 2000 budget, which mistakenly relies on continued Federal funding. As the Mayor, Chief Ramsey, and the Council know, the federal appropriation was a one-time, stopgap grant to allow the startup of the CCRB during FY 1999. The FY 2000 budget should have included sufficient funds for the CCRB without additional Federal help, as we stressed to Chief Ramsey when we met with him last November. We have already received word that our contacts on Capitol Hill are nonplussed to learn that the District somehow was counting on having this extraordinary, one-time appropriation made permanent.

The effect of the proposed FY 2000 budget is to defund the CCRB before it can be started. This is a significant oversight that the Council needs to address. We have also brought this omission to the Mayor's attention at his town meeting with the gay and lesbian community last Wednesday, and are awaiting follow-up from his office. As a matter of fact, prompt implementation of the new CCRB was a key action item in the Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual, and Transgender Subcommittee Report for the Williams Transition. We urge you to work with the Mayor to correct any misunderstandings on the part of his budget staff and ensure that the omission of these crucial funds is corrected.

We cannot allow the poisoned atmosphere currently prevailing in New York City to take hold here. An effective Civilian Complaint Review Board is a critical element in restoring accountability to the MPD and holding it to the highest standards as Chief Ramsey has pledged and as everyone in the District is entitled to expect.

Thank you. I would be glad to answer any questions.

[During his spoken remarks Rosendall also mentioned an incident that had occurred earlier in the hearing, when Shaw Advisory Neighborhood Commissioner Leroy Thorpe had used a homophobic slur against Councilmember David Catania. Rosendall recalled a similar incident during the special Ward 2 council election in April 1991, when Thorpe used a megaphone to defame openly gay candidate (and former GLAA President) Jim Zais outside a Shaw polling place. Rosendall said that if Thorpe's behavior wasn't going to change — even after his apology at Zais' memorial service some years later — then it was good to get Mr. Thorpe on the record so that his bigotry is publicly exposed.]

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