Local historians recall pivotal 1973 gay sit-in;
They Fought the Law
Four Operators Weren't Taking Calls During Fire;
D.C. Suspends 24 Over Police E-Mail (The Washington Post) 08/26/02
GLAA cites progress, supports new contract
for Chief Ramsey
GAY & LESBIAN ACTIVISTS ALLIANCE OF WASHINGTON
P.O. Box 75265, Washington, D.C. 20013
Statement for the Record of June 17 DC Council hearing
on proposed pay raise for Chief Charles H. Ramsey
June 23, 2003
D.C. Council Chairman Linda W. Cropp
Chair, Committee of the Whole
Council of the District of Columbia
1350 Pennsylvania Avenue, NW
Washington, DC 20004
Dear Chairman Cropp:
We in the Gay and Lesbian Activists Alliance are not particularly concerned with the pay levels of particular officials. Regarding recent disputes over the proposed $25,000 pay raise for Metropolitan Police Department Chief Charles H. Ramsey, the real issue for opponents appears to be whether he should receive a renewed contract at all. We therefore will focus on his performance as it has affected gay community concerns.
While we have our disagreements, which we will discuss below, Chief Ramsey has proven to be by far the most responsive police chief on gay issues that DC has ever had. He instituted regular meetings with gay community leaders to discuss a wide range of concerns, from the treatment of transgenders to the investigation of gay-related murders. He established the Gay and Lesbian Liaison Unit, a unit unique in the entire country with its full enforcement powers, to improve community-police relations, increase the mutual respect of gay people and the police, and focus on previously ignored problems in the community. We honored GLLU this past April with our Distinguished Service Award. Chief Ramsey also pioneered a training module for officers on the lessons of the Holocaust which has become a model for other police departments around the country. In the words of GLAA co-founder Frank Kameny in his citation for the GLLU, the MPD under Chief Ramsey represents "a bright new dawn in which, as they should be, the police are our friends and colleagues, not the adversaries of yore."
We opposed Chief Ramsey's push a few years ago to prohibit off-duty officers from moonlighting as security guards at ABC-licensed establishments, because a number of establishments catering to the gay community in the nightclub zone off South Capitol Street had depended on such officers for many years to protect their patrons. The Council ultimately agreed with Chief Ramsey on this issue, so we lost that battle. However, we should note that members of the GLLU have made a special effort to combat the aggressive panhandling and associated crime in that neighborhood. Their efforts have been hampered by a lack of cooperation from the courts, but this is beyond the Chief's control. Officials from MPD's First District have also worked with bar owners over the years to address problems, including advising patrons of steps to take to minimize the threat of car break-ins.
We have also been concerned about the discontinuation over two years ago of diversity and sensitivity training for veteran officers. We recently learned indirectly that GLBT training of veteran officers resumed in January of this year -- but the training time has been cut from 1 1/2 hours down to just one hour, and it is being done by a GLLU auxiliary member rather than by the experienced and highly effective Karen Pettapiece, a member of our community with a background in policing who has conducted such training in the past to glowing reviews. The Department has been poor in its communication on this point, and seems eager to oppose the involvement of community representatives in this training in favor of trainers internal to the Department. We consider this unfortunate and a waste of a valuable community resource with a proven track record. Ms. Pettapiece has clearly communicated that she wants to do the training and that money is not an issue. We continue to urge the Chief to involve Ms. Pettapiece in the veteran training and to allot a sufficient amount of time for an effective presentation.
As DC resident John Aravosis has chronicled on his website, SafeStreetsDC.com, there have been complaints by members of our community and others about some police officers refusing to respond to citizens' complaints about crimes. Executive Assistant Chief Michael Fitzgerald assured us that he has his officers monitor that website regularly to gather information which is used in internal investigations into these complaints.
We are not happy about the secrecy surrounding the disposition of charges that Master Patrol Officer Hiram Rosario made violent anti-gay threats against an openly gay officer at a roll-call in front of a dozen colleagues and two sergeants. We gather that the charges were upheld, and that there were some sanctions against Rosario, but we wish we knew what they were. It seems clear that as long as the internal rules block public accountability and protect problem officers more than their victims, there is little chance of reforming the prevailing police culture that allows such problem officers to flourish. Chief Ramsey has said that officers who act on their prejudices while they are supposed to be defending all the citizens of the District equally are not fit to wear the badge. Unfortunately, it appears that his hands are largely tied, and that legislation may be necessary to change the rules to give the Chief the power he needs to do what must be done. Barring a display of political will by this Council, we do not see how hiring a new chief would solve this problem.
In short, while we have our disagreements and continued concerns, Chief Ramsey has shown greater openness and cooperation with advocates for the gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgendered citizens of the District than any of his predecessors, and has taken initiatives for reform in a number of areas. He has done this during a period of unusual pressures caused by our city being a prime terrorist target, and has borne the pressures well.
We look forward to continuing to work with him and his staff, and strongly support the renewal of his contract for another five years.
Gay and Lesbian Activists Alliance of Washington, DC
PS: See also Frank Kameny's full remarks in presenting
GLAA's 2003 Distinguished Service Award to the GLLU, at:
cc: All Councilmembers
Mayor Anthony A. Williams
Deputy Mayor Margret Nedelkoff Kellems
Chief Charles H. Ramsey
Sgt. Brett Parson, GLLU