GLAA Endorses Sainte-Andress for CCRB
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GLAA Endorses Sainte-Andress for CCRB

Testimony on Appointments to the Citizen Complaint Review Board
Delivered before the D.C. Council Committee on the Judiciary

Monday, November 8, 1999

Good evening Mr. Chairman, Councilmember Evans:

I am Rick Rosendall, public safety chair and former president of the Gay and Lesbian Activists Alliance. I am here to testify for GLAA on resolutions 13-451 through 13-455, concerning the nominations to the Citizen Complaint Review Board of Michael Selmi, Stanley E. Wigenton, Maria-Cristina (Mai) Fernandez, Michael Sainte-Andress, and Patricia Ann Fisher.

It has been a long and arduous process for us to get to this point. We thank this committee for its help in getting us here. We also thank our colleagues in the NAACP-DC Metropolitan Police and Criminal Justice Review Task Force, on which I serve, and which played a key role in restoring citizen review here in the District. Finally, we thank Mayor Williams and his staff for their cooperation, although we must add that there have been unconscionable delays in implementing the CCRB legislation which took effect last March. By not implementing the law in FY 1999 the District failed to spend $1.2 million in federal funds that were appropriated for this purpose last year thanks to the efforts of Councilmember Catania. But it isn't just about the money; the delays have meant that for several additional months the District has continued to be without civilian review.

That being said, we must credit Marie Drissel and her staff in the Office of Boards and Commissions with ensuring broad community involvement in the process that led to the nominations that are before you today. That process included the establishment of a citizens advisory committee, led by former councilmember Bill Lightfoot and including several members of the NAACP Task Force, such as myself. This advisory committee assisted in publicizing the appeal for applicants, determining the selection criteria, and reviewing the more than 100 applications that were received by Ms. Drissel's office.

As you know, Inspector Wigenton, as the designated MPD representative, was chosen through a separate process. For the other four positions, the citizens advisory committee winnowed down the field of applicants to a list of the top 22. All four of the remaining nominees Ms. Fernandez, Ms. Fisher, Mr. Selmi, and Mr. Sainte-Andress were chosen by the Mayor from that list. Considering the small number of available positions on the Board, we must commend the Mayor and Ms. Drissel for doing such a good job of ensuring as much diversity on the Board as possible. This diversity includes race, ethnicity, gender, and sexual orientation. Another important factor, geography, has also been accounted for; it is noteworthy that Wards 7 and 8 are both represented among these nominees. Diversity of profession is another valuable aspect of this group of nominees: they hale from a variety of walks of life.

All of this diversity is not merely an exercise in political correctness; the effectiveness of this Board will depend on the trust in which it is held by all segments of the District's diverse community. The CCRB will not only have the important task of hiring an executive director to run the new, independent Office of Citizen Complaint Review; they will also conduct periodic reviews of the citizen complaint review process, make recommendations on that process, as well as make recommendations concerning MPD recruitment, training, evaluation, discipline, and supervision of police officers. They can also apply for and receive grants.

Members of the citizens advisory committee and the NAACP Task Force have met with all five nominees, and have helped to brief them on the background of the law and their prospective responsibilities under it. The nominees have already displayed a serious engagement with the challenges that will face them, and an eagerness to work together to ensure the success and fairness of the citizen complaint review process. What we know already makes us hopeful.

In offering our endorsement, however, we will speak only to the nominee that we know best, our longtime fellow activist Michael Sainte-Andress. He is a U.S. Navy veteran whose volunteer public service has included such diverse activities as voter registration, tutoring in under-served areas of the city, organizing food service and Christmas toy drives for needy families. In fact, he has received awards from both the Veterans Administration and D.C. Black Lesbian and Gay Pride Day, Inc., for outstanding volunteer community service.

Michael was one of the original organizers of our esteemed sister organization, the D.C. Coalition (formerly known as the D.C. Coalition of Black Lesbians, Gay Men, and Bisexuals), and participated in successful efforts many years ago to end the racially discriminatory practice of "carding" at primarily white, gay establishments. We in GLAA are proud to have helped stop that outrageous and illegal practice. Things do change, and Michael has been a part of it for a long time. Michael was appointed by both Mayors Kelly and Barry to serve on the regional Ryan White HIV Health Services Planning Council. We can say with confidence that his experience on the Planning Council makes Michael well qualified to deal with contentious public issues.

In short, Michael Sainte-Andress has shown outstanding perseverance and commitment as both an advocate for, and a servant of, the community, and he has always put the best interests of the District community first. We are therefore proud to endorse his nomination to the D.C. Citizen Complaint Review Board, and we urge the Committee to act on his and the other nominations and forward them to the full Council in time to be voted upon at the December 7 legislative session. We cannot afford any further delays.

We look forward to assisting Michael and his colleagues in any way we can as they get the new office organized and begin its important work. I will be happy to answer any questions.

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