Police Look At Student Harassment (The Washington Post) 10/06/00
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Friday, October 6, 2000
HRC PRAISES D.C. AUTHORITIES FOR SUMMIT TO ADDRESS FEARS AND CONCERNS OF GALLAUDET GAY STUDENT LEADERS
Officials Need to Follow Through on Concrete Steps Offered to Foster Better Communication Between Police and Deaf Community, Says HRC
WASHINGTON - Representatives from Mayor Anthony Williams office, the U.S. attorneys office, metro police, gay advocates and gay student leaders met today at the headquarters of the Human Rights Campaign to discuss concerns about how the police have so far handled the investigation into the murder of a gay student leader at Gallaudet University. While the meeting was at times contentious, local law enforcement officials were receptive to improving communication and offered tangible ways to reach out to students, says HRC.
"This meeting made it clear that many gay students felt police were not adequately responding to the climate of fear that had developed on campus and that these students did not feel safe," said HRC Communications Director David M. Smith. "We applaud the police for proactively offering concrete steps to address the students' concerns. However, officials must now follow-through on their promises and implement strategies to improve dialogue and effectively work with Gallaudet students to solve this case."
Last week, Eric Franklin Plunkett, 19, an officer with the gay Gallaudet Lambda Society, was murdered in his on-campus dorm room. Early in the week, Gallaudet freshman Thomas Minch was arrested for the crime, but police and prosecutors dropped murder charges on Wednesday. At today's meeting, club members said they had complained of anti-gay harassment both before and after Plunkett's death, including slurs in e-mail messages and graffiti. But students leaders said that police had not investigated the incidents, and had not used their harassment complaints as evidence that Plunkett's murder might be a hate crime.
To mollify the visibly angry students, Fifth District Cmdr. Jennifer Greene and other police officials said at the meeting they would immediately take action to improve their relationship with the school's gay students. Greene said that she will have department liaisons work closely with Gallaudet's gay community; the Gay and Lesbian Activists Alliance of D.C. today donated the police department two TTY machines, a keyboard-style contraption that lets the deaf communicate via telephone; and seven detectives will be dispatched to work on the Plunkett case.
The Human Rights Campaign is the largest national lesbian and gay political organization, with members throughout the country. It effectively lobbies Congress, provides campaign support and educates the public to ensure that lesbian and gay Americans can be open, honest and safe at home, at work and in the community.