GLAA testifies on police accountability, training
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GLAA on Public Safety

GLAA testifies on police accountability, training

Follow-up: Councilmember Graham questions Ramsey on Rosario status

P.O. Box 75265
Washington, D.C. 20013

February 24, 2003

The Honorable Kathy Patterson
Committee on the Judiciary
Council of the District of Columbia
1350 Pennsylvania Avenue, N.W.
Washington, D.C. 20001

Dear Mrs. Patterson:

I am writing this letter as the official statement of the Gay and Lesbian Activists Alliance (GLAA) for the record of your committee's oversight hearing on the Metropolitan Police Department (MPD) on February 25. I regret that we are not able to testify in person.

I'd like to start by commending you, Mrs. Patterson, for the outstanding leadership you have provided this committee since assuming the chair just over two years ago. You have consistently proven to be both vigorous and fair, not only in exercising your oversight responsibilities for various District government agencies, but also in considering proposed legislation falling within your committee's jurisdiction. For these and other vitally important contributions you've made during your tenure on the Council, especially in the area of enforcement of the D.C. Human Rights Law of 1977, you have earned the GLAA Distinguished Service Award, which we will happily bestow upon you during our 32nd Anniversary Reception on the evening of April 15.

GLAA has been working vigorously for improved relations between the MPD and the District's gay and lesbian community ever since we were founded more than 30 years ago. We have made great strides, to an extent few would have thought possible in the often-dark days of the 1970s when the MPD was openly and aggressively at war with our community across a wide front. For the past two decades or so, we have had a succession of Police Chiefs who have pledged themselves and the Department to active cooperation with and service to our city's gay and lesbian community.

Certainly Chief Ramsey has distinguished himself in many ways in fulfilling his promises, most notably (but hardly exclusively) in his initiative in establishing the Department's Gay & Lesbian Liaison Unit (GLLU) several years ago. The GLLU, unique in this country because it exercises the full range of law enforcement powers, has really started to live up to its potential under the charismatic guidance of Sergeant Brett Parson. We are delighted to hear that Chief Ramsey has agreed to expand the GLLU in recognition of its enviable record of accomplishment. As you know, Mrs. Patterson, Sgt. Parson and the GLLU will be joining you at our Anniversary Reception on April 15 to accept a Distinguished Service Award of their own. As further evidence of his own personal dedication, Chief Ramsey has been meeting regularly with leaders of the gay and lesbian community ever since he first came on board.

But we fear that a gaping hole in the MPD's commitment to "Equal Justice for All" has been exposed by its apparent inability to fire for cause an openly and shamelessly homophobic officer, Master Patrol Officer Hiram Rosario.

You will recall that Officer Rosario gained notoriety last June when he exploded into a torrent of verbal abuse against openly gay officer Scott Fike in front of a dozen other officers, including a couple of supervisors. A formal internal complaint was filed with the Department in July, and the story made the press. We voiced our own outrage to Chief Ramsey in a letter last July 24, with copies to all Councilmembers. No fewer than six Councilmembers, including yourself, Mrs. Patterson, took the trouble to send your own messages of support to the Chief. Chief Ramsey replied that, while he could not comment on an ongoing investigation, he would not tolerate bigoted behavior by any of his Department's employees -- a pledge he had expressed to us on many previous occasions, and which he repeated in his August meeting with representatives of GLAA and other concerned groups in the gay and lesbian community.

Unfortunately, that was the last that we ever heard from the Chief about the disposition of the Rosario incident. The Department subsequently clammed up, claiming that its decisions on internal complaints are a matter of executive privilege. It even indicated its severe displeasure that anyone had gone to the public in the first place. So much for the public's right to know! Not to mention, so much for the Council's right and responsibility to exercise diligent oversight over the Metropolitan Police Department.

We gather, but cannot confirm, that the Department upheld the substance of the complaint but only gave Rosario a proverbial "slap on the wrist," and that he remains on duty to this day.

If our supposition is true, it would constitute a major scandal, and would make the Chief's repeated pledges not to tolerate the presence of bigoted police officers on his force a hollow mockery.

If MPO Rosario cannot be dismissed for grotesquely bigoted behavior, who can? What would someone on the police force have to do to earn a pink slip for indulging his or her hate?

The Metropolitan Police Department must not be run as though it were a private, exclusive country club, where disputes among members are quietly settled behind closed doors and everybody else can just butt out and mind their own business. News of the allegations against Officer Rosario has scandalized our community and undermined our confidence in the fairness and reliability of our supposed defenders and protectors. If the complaint against him was determined to be unfounded, the public needs and deserves to know that, so that our concerns may be alleviated. But if the complaint was substantiated and yet Officer Rosario remains on duty as though nothing important had happened, the Council has a duty to conduct its own investigation to uncover and correct the weaknesses in the system that would allow such an obnoxious outcome.

Is the law governing the handling of internal complaints too weak and too contemptuous of the public and its right to know? If so, then the law must be reformed.

Are there provisions in the union contract that protect guilty and anti-social police officers from suffering the appropriate penalties for egregious misconduct? If so, then those provisions must be renegotiated at the earliest opportunity -- even at the risk of alienating politically powerful union leaders. The Washington Teachers Union scandal should teach us the dangers of granting too much unsupervised and unchecked power to a politically influential private group.

Is the problem neither in the law nor in the union contracts, but in a top-level management that is too afraid of its own work force to employ its legitimate powers against bigoted and abusive officers? If so, then changes at the top may be in order.

When this scandalous incident first became public last summer, we at GLAA called for a joint investigation by this committee and the Human Rights subcommittee. Such a full-scale investigation is now more appropriate than ever. We also stated last summer that this incident highlighted the Department's error in ending the training of veterans on gay and other minority community issues, the kind of training only rookies and transfers receive now from an openly lesbian professional trainer and former law enforcement officer, Karen Pettapiece. We renew our call for a speedy resumption of such training.

We wish to stress the importance of this training being given by an experienced, openly gay, lesbian, bisexual, or transgender trainer from outside the Department -- not just an officer who happens to be gay, and certainly not a non-GLBT person who thinks he or she can talk about our issues. Karen Pettapiece has conducted the GLBT portion of the sensitivity training for many years, receiving praise from officers for her capable handling of an often challenging classroom situation, yet she has not heard anything from MPD about their plans. We would appreciate being consulted on this by the Department, instead of being shut out in favor of some self-declared expert from the consulting world. We note that in the past we have had to correct errors in materials provided by "diversity experts" hired by the Department, which materials Chief Ramsey had fortunately shown to us.

We hope you will have an opportunity to raise these issues with Chief Ramsey during your oversight hearing on the 25th, or in written follow-up questions that he would be required to answer for the record.

Thank you for your attention and continued dedicated public service.


Kevin Davis

Cc: Chief Ramsey
All Councilmembers
Washington Blade
Washington City Paper
Metro Weekly
Tom Sherwood, NBC4 News

Follow-up: Councilmember Graham questions Ramsey on Rosario status

From: Jim Graham
To: Rick Rosendall
Date: Wednesday, February 26, 2003
Subject: Rosario

I did raise the issue of MPO Rosario at yesterday's MPD hearing with Chief Ramsey. I was advised by the Chief that the complaint against Rosario had been sustained, that he had lost his MPO rank, and that he had been transferred to the 6th District.

Bests CM Jim Graham

From: Rick Rosendall
To: Jim Graham
Date: Wednesday, February 26, 2003
Subject: Rosario


Yes, Craig was watching the hearing and saw you raise that question. Thanks. I am glad that Rosario at least lost his MPO rank, but -- especially considering that he has a history of such problems -- that is short of the firing he deserves, and moving around bad players is not exactly a solution. Now the people in the 6th District will have to endure his shenanigans. We need to look at forcing a change in the rules to allow better discipline to remove such officers.


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