Diversity and Sensitivity Training: Where Council Candidates Stand

Council Candidates Support Community Involvement in Diversity and Sensitivity Training

[Note: In September 2000, the three-day diversity and sensitivity training provided to new Metropolitan Police Department officers, in which representatives of various minority communities have participated, was abruptly canceled due to what we were told was a "compliance" issue involving the U.S. Department of Justice. Because of the commitment to community participation in this training by GLAA and Gay Men and Lesbians Opposing Violence, as well as our coalition partners in the NAACP-DC Police Task Force, we have compiled below the pledges that we have received from this year's DC Council candidates on this question.]


excerpt from GLAA's "Agenda: 2000"

an election-year guide to local gay and lesbian issues in Washington, DC
(Last revised: July 10, 2000)

Part I. Public Safety
B. Community Relations Training

For many years the MPD included presentations by openly gay men and women, volunteers recruited through Gay Men And Lesbians Opposing Violence (GLOV), as part of its community relations training programs for both new and veteran officers. However, such training for veterans was ended with virtually no notice at the start of the current fiscal year. Chief Ramsey and his staff told us that, for this year only, a comprehensive retraining program for all officers would have only one day out of five set aside for community relations training by an outside contractor and that gay men and women would not be part of this program. The traditional training would continue for new officers and would resume for all officers in FY 2001.

However, we are now getting the impression that the MPD intends to use only its own officers to conduct community relations training in the future, and that GLOV volunteers will no longer be used. If true, this change would be a major step backwards. Many officers, both new and veteran, have had little if any contact with openly gay citizens, and non-gay trainers, whether uniformed or civilian, could not be as effective as GLOV volunteers. The very presence of openly gay men and women as trainers sends a strong message to all officers that homophobia will not be tolerated in this city. There have been reports that in the past, gay and lesbian speakers have been verbally abused by attending officers. Such abuse should be immediately punished by MPD supervisors in charge of such training. Otherwise, the Department's intended message of sensitivity to our community will be drastically compromised and undermined..


2000 Questionnaire for Council Candidates

5. Will you demand mandatory gay male, lesbian, bisexual and transgender sensitivity and diversity training including gay and transgender community representatives as a continuing part of the training for all members of the Metropolitan Police Department and the Fire/EMS Department?

CANDIDATE RESPONSES

Carol Schwartz (Republican, At-Large Councilmember):

Yes. I have demanded that sensitivity and diversity training be mandatory for all members of the Metropolitan Police Department and the Fire/EMS Department. I was sickened by the appalling treatment of Tyra Hunter by EMS personnel. In a letter I wrote to then-acting Fire Chief Thomas Tippett (see attachment #1) and during a subsequent meeting with him in my office earlier this year, I told him in no uncertain terms that I wanted all personnel under his command to receive the necessary sensitivity training, and that the training should include representatives from our diverse communities. I also expressed to him my strong objection to the promotion of an emergency worker who refused to treat Hunter after the worker discovered that she was transgendered. I will make these same feelings known to our newly appointed fire chief, Ronnie Few, during the Council's consideration of his nomination.

Harol Brazil (Democrat, At-Large Councilmember):

Yes. I have strongly advocated for thorough sensitivity training for police department employees, both civilian and sworn, as well as for firefighters and EMS personnel. Discrimination against a person based on sexual preference should not be tolerated.

Arturo Griffiths (Statehood-Green, At-Large Nominee):

Yes. This type of training is essential for all current and new members of the Metropolitan Police Department and the Fire/EMS Department. Recently, the MPD announced its intentions to use its own officers to conduct community relations training. The recent Tyra Hunter case shows how serious this issue is. If the Department is serious about changing officers' attitudes about gays, lesbians, bisexual and transgender individuals, it must hire outside trainers who are GLOV volunteers and have personal experience as openly gay men and women. I would also like to point out that this same issue has arisen in the Latino community, and I know personally that many officers need cultural sensitivity training on D.C.'s Latino community .The Latino community bas pushed for the trainers to be bi-lingual and bi-cultural. That can only be achieved if outside trainers with community experience be hired to provide the training. Because of my experience, I can help facilitate efforts for the gay and lesbian community in their efforts to convince the MPD about the importance of cultural sensitivity training by outside contractors.

Jack Evans (Democrat, Ward 2 DC Councilmember):

Yes. I have long championed for the inclusion of GLBT sensitivity training at the Metropolitan Police Department and the Fire/EMS Department for both new recruits and veteran officers by members of the GLBT community. Horrible incidents such as the Tyra Hunter tragedy make it all too clear there is still much work to be done to eliminate GLBT discrimination in our public safety sector.

I am quite concerned MPD Chief Ramsey dismantled the GLBT component of training in FY 2000 with little, if any, notice to the GLBT community and the Council. This is inexcusable and must not be repeated. I am further dismayed at the possibility Gay Men and Lesbians Opposing Violence (GLOV) volunteers might not be included in future community relations training programs. There is no substitute for training by members of the GLBT community.

Since there is not a question in this candidate survey which directly addresses the wrongful death of Tyra Hunter, I would like to discuss my efforts on this issue. I worked to have the DC Fire Department expand its investigation and I have been actively involved in the efforts of GLAA and others to encourage the DC Corporation Counsel to drop its appeal of the court decision in favor of the Hunter family. Also, I will strongly question the Mayor's nominee for the Fire & EMS Department Chief this fall about how to ensure an incident such as this will never be repeated. The first step toward that goal is to ensure meaningful GLBT sensitivity training such as has been discussed in this question.

Again, I look forward to working with GLAA in the next budget cycle to include provisions which will enhance GLBT sensitivity training at both the MPD and Fire & EMS.

Adrian Fenty (Democrat, Ward 4 Nominee):

I believe that including community representatives in police training has worked well in the past. I support the continued inclusion of community representatives.

Charlene Drew Jarvis (Democrat, Ward 4 Councilmember):

Yes. I believe that representatives from the GLBT community are the most effective providers of sensitivity and diversity training on gay and transgender issues. I oppose the possible elimination of GLOV volunteers from community relations training programs for those in public safety. In the long-run the provision of such training by the GLBT community will promote an environment of tolerance and understanding, and reduce instances of discrimination within public safety agencies.

Renée Bowser (Statehood-Green, Ward 4 Nominee):

Yes I will support mandatory sensitivity and diversity training of all police officers and fire/EMS department personnel and such training which should be provided new personnel and with annual renewed training. I believe that the training should effective, including providing notice that discipline reasonably calculated to end any discrimination will be imposed. However, effective training may not require gay and transgender representatives as part of every training program.

Kevin Chavous (Democrat, Ward 7 DC Councilmember):

[Did not respond to GLAA questionnaire.]

Sandy Allen (Democrat, Ward 8 DC Councilmember):

Yes, I support mandatory gay male, lesbian, bisexual and transgender sensitivity and diversity training, especially in light of the recent incidents in the media regarding the refusal of treatment to a transgender individual by EMS.

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