GLAA: Ramsey must act against anti-gay bigotry
on DC police force
From: Rick Rosendall
To: Chief Charles H. Ramsey
Cc: DC Councilmembers, Mayor Williams, Gay and Lesbian Liaison Unit, Wanda Alston
Sent: Wednesday, July 24, 2002 9:27 AM
Subject: Anti-gay bigotry tolerated on DC police force
Dear Chief Ramsey,
See the Washington Blade story below. Officer Scott Fike attended the GLAA meeting last evening, though he could not discuss many details of his case because it is being investigated by MPD's Office of Professional Responsibility. But he did point out that the officer who spewed epithets at him and threatened him with violence in front of witnesses at a June 13 roll call (including two sergeants who took no action), Hiram Rosario, is already back on duty. As the story tells, this is not the first time Rosario has done this. Had this involved racial epithets and threats, he would have had to surrender his gun and badge. Fike was accompanied last evening by a gay Latino officer who is not "out" but who has experienced similar bigotry from fellow officers over the years, and has gotten little help from MPD management.
This exemplifies what I have been saying for years -- that veteran officers need to be included in the diversity and sensitivity training, and that all the training in the world will do little good if supervisors make it clear by their action or inaction that discrimination will be tolerated. Hiram Rosario, who as a minority himself who has complained of discrimination should damn well know better, patrols PSA 307 in the heavily gay neighborhood of Dupont Circle. Threatening to do bodily harm, as he did to Fike in front of more than a dozen MPD witnesses, is a crime. We cannot tolerate police holding themselves above the law, and we cannot tolerate MPD officials failing to take action to punish it and to prevent its recurrence. Rosario even dared Fike to do something about it and to take it to MPD's Gay and Lesbian Liaison Unit. His doing this in front of so many witnesses suggests an expectation that nothing would be done about it, and this says disturbing (if frankly unsurprising) things about the prevailing corporate culture.
GLAA is going to ask Councilmembers Jim Graham and Kathy Patterson (who chair the committees with jurisdiction on human rights and public safety, respectively) to call a joint hearing on this problem. Since you yourself agreed, at a recent meeting with gay community members, that veteran officers need the diversity training as much as new recruits and lateral transfers, we must now insist that you proceed forthwith to schedule all veteran officers and supervisors for the training. But the biggest problem at this point is management. Misbehavior that carries no adverse consequences is not going to stop -- especially not in the macho police culture where (according to more than one gay officer we have talked to) anti-gay sentiment is widely taken for granted.
It is time that the bigoted officers on DC's payroll be taught that they are not above the law, and that the people they are sworn to serve are also paying their salaries and are not to be selectively excluded from equal protection at the officers' discretion. The fact that gay Latino officers have been among Rosario's targets demonstrates that this is not about gays vs. Latinos, but about bigotry being tolerated on the force. If police officers get to decide which part of the law they will respect and enforce, they make a mockery of the law. We have received reports of police refusing to take reports of anti-gay assaults and attempted robberies, including of supervisory officers arriving on the scene and refusing to do any better than their junior officers. To say the least, this is unacceptable.
We would like to know why Officer Rosario has been returned to duty so soon after such a disgraceful and criminal incident in front of so many witnesses. We would like to know why the two sergeants who were present took no action at the time. We would like to know when veteran officers and supervisors will be scheduled for the community diversity and sensitivity training, and how management will follow up on that training to make it clear that violations will have serious consequences. You have said that officers who indulge personal bigotry while on duty have no business wearing the badge; now we want to see action to back that up. We are immensely proud of Officer Fike for coming forward, since otherwise the problem would continue to go unaddressed. We hope that you will work with us to take advantage of this opportunity to do much-needed reform of a vital public safety institution that is supposed to serve all the people of the District. And if your hands are tied in any way by existing regulations or agreements, they need to be identified and addressed with the help of our elected leaders, whom I have copied on this message.
Public Safety Chair
Gay and Lesbian Activists Alliance
The Washington Blade
July 19, 2002
Gay rookie charges fellow officer with anti-gay slurIncident under investigation by D.C. police Office of Internal Affairs
By LOU CHIBBARO JR.
A veteran D.C. police officer who heads the Hispanic Police Officers Association is under investigation for allegedly calling an openly gay rookie police officer a "faggot" and a "punk" and for allegedly threatening to physically assault the gay officer, according to two police officials familiar with the incident.
The two officials, one of whom only spoke on condition of anonymity, said the incident occurred June 13 during a roll call meeting at the Third District Police Headquarters in which more than two-dozen officers and two sergeants were present.
In an e-mail message to members of the D.C. City Council, Lt. Alberto Jova identified the officer under investigation as Master Patrol Officer Hiram Rosario, a 14-year veteran who is currently assigned to patrol the Dupont Circle area, where he trains rookie officers in the field. Jova identified the gay rookie officer who reportedly was the subject of Rosario's name-calling as Officer Scott Fike.
Fike, when contacted by the Blade, declined to comment, saying he has filed an official complaint against Rosario and is prevented from discussing the matter under police rules.
Rosario could not be reached by press time.
Jova told the Blade he decided to bring the matter to the attention of the D.C. Council because Rosario made a similar anti-gay remark about him five or six years ago at another roll call meeting at the Third District. Jova, who is also openly gay and was a sergeant at the time, said other officers informed him that Rosario called him a "faggot" after Jova left the roll call meeting.
Jova said Rosario became enraged when he confronted him about the alleged slur. He said Rosario began to scream at him, prompting other officers to intervene in an effort to head off a possible physical assault.
Jova said he was also concerned that police officials would back off from investigating Rosario because of his position with the Hispanic Police Officers Association and Rosario's past criticism of the department for allegedly not treating Latino officers fairly in hiring and promotion practices.
In his e-mail message to members of the D.C. Council, Jova said Rosario allegedly called Fike a "faggot rookie," "little bitch" and "punk" during the June 13 roll call meeting in a room full of fellow officers.
"MPO Rosario also told Officer Fike to meet him in the locker room where he was going to 'beat his faggot ass,'" Jova said in his message to Council members. "Furthermore, MPO Rosario told Officer Fike to seek 'protection' from the Gay & Lesbian Liaison Unit," Jova said in his message. He was referring to a unit that D.C. Police Chief Charles Ramsey created three years ago to foster improved police relations with the gay community.
Added Jova, "During the course of the verbal assault and threats by Rosario, Sergeants Nicholas Kunysz and Brian Devine were present. The sergeants failed to intervene and left the roll call room after taking no action against MPO Rosario."
City Council alerted to prevent 'something tragic'
Jova is currently assigned to the department's Office of Internal Affairs, which is responsible for investigating Fike's complaint against Rosario. He said he has recused himself from any role in the investigation because of his own "adversarial relationship" with Rosario.
"I recognize that by reporting this account, I am risking my assignment in the Office of Internal Affairs," he wrote in his message to the Council. "Yet, my conscience does not allow me to sit idly by and remain silent about this matter. Officer Rosario is a violent tyrant and a bully and his behavior needs to be immediately addressed before something tragic happens."
Third District Commander Cheryl Pendergast said she initiated the Office of Internal Affairs investigation into Rosario's conduct after receiving informal reports of the June 13 roll call incident from other officers. She said as of early this week, neither Fike nor Rosario had contacted her directly about the June 13 incident. Pendergast said police rules prevent her from discussing details of a pending investigation.
When asked about the department's policy regarding the use of slurs by officers against gays or other groups, Pendergast said, "It is inappropriate and it is not tolerated. When something like this comes up, it's just a matter of going through the proper procedures to determine if it can be substantiated."
Asked if she took into account Rosario's role with the Hispanic Police Officers Association before initiating the investigation, Pendergast said, "That was not even a consideration of mine."
Rosario testified on behalf of the Hispanic Police Officers Association before a July 11 joint D.C. Council hearing in which openly gay Council member Jim Graham (D-Ward 1) co-presided. Graham is chair of the Council's Subcommittee on Human Rights, Latino Affairs & Property Management.
News reporter Lou Chibbaro Jr. can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
FOR MORE INFO
Metropolitan Police Department
Gay & Lesbian Liaison Unit
300 Indiana Ave. NW, Room 5125
Washington, DC 20001
Copyright © 2002 The Washington Blade Inc.