GLAA declines to endorse Lanier as police chief
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Office of Police Complaints

GLAA on Public Safety

GLAA declines to endorse Lanier as police chief

Fighting for Equal Rights Since 1971
P. O. Box 75265
Washington, D.C. 20013

Testimony on
"Chief of the Metropolitan Police Department Cathy L. Lanier
Confirmation Resolution of 2007," PR 17-0009

Delivered to the Committee on Public Safety and the Judiciary

March 16, 2007

Good afternoon, Chairman Mendelson. I am Rick Rosendall, Vice President for Political Affairs of the Gay and Lesbian Activists Alliance. You will soon receive your invitation to attend our 36th anniversary reception, which is set for April 19 at the Washington Plaza Hotel.

First we must object to Mayor Fenty’s cavalier approach to naming a new police chief. Such an important job requires more of a process than inviting someone to breakfast and offering her the job. Nine years ago, the last time a new police chief was chosen, there was a nationwide search, and I served on the citizen’s advisory committee. Chief Ramsey requested a meeting with GLAA the day his appointment was announced. That began a long and fruitful relationship. Indeed, we will present Mr. Ramsey with a Distinguished Service Award on April 19.

While Acting Chief Cathy Lanier has been too busy to meet with us so far, she did take the time to phone me on Monday, and answered my questions for about half an hour. I found her receptive and responsive, and we ended the call on a hopeful note. Permit me to describe GLAA’s concerns as they now stand.

Issue 1: The Gay and Lesbian Liaison Unit (GLLU) was the first such unit in the country to combine community relations with full policing powers. This needs to continue. Acting Chief Lanier appointed Lt. Alberto Jova to oversee GLLU. He is a man of integrity for whom we have a lot of respect. They have both assured us that GLLU will continue. Whichever sergeant is appointed to manage the Unit’s daily operations will have big shoes to fill, since Sgt. Brett Parson did such a superb job for several years. Lanier wants to expand the size of the unit and assign officers to each police district with marked cruisers identifying them as being with GLLU. We want to make sure that in any such arrangement the Unit continues to be centrally managed. Lanier agreed. We learned recently that while the Unit’s five full-time officers are under the Chief’s office, the reserve officers were told they are under 3D ROC North. Lanier agreed with me that this division makes no operational sense, and promised to take corrective action.

Issue 2: It is imperative that MPD reinstate sensitivity training of veteran officers, which was discontinued several years ago. Veteran officers establish the everyday climate for new officers. Allowing homophobia from veteran officers to go unchallenged helps perpetuate an atmosphere hostile to GLBT citizens and negate the sensitivity training received by new recruits. Lanier said she has ordered the development of a series of 10-minute in-service training videos that can be used during roll calls. I said that Chief Ramsey had talked about this for years, but she said she has assigned Lt. Jova to get it done, and will hold him to it.

Issue 3: On February 23, 2006, a seminar sponsored by OUTfront, a program of Amnesty International, revealed that MPD was one of the better police departments in its treatment of GLBT people. There was one glaring exception—the abuse of transgender citizens by many officers. Too many police routinely assume that transgender citizens are prostitutes. It will take determined leadership to uproot transphobia in the MPD. Lanier’s own past experience of gender-based discrimination gives us hope that she will bring sensitivity to this problem.

Issue 4: Shortly before his departure, Chief Ramsey disbanded the Community-Police Task Force, on which I had represented GLAA. This task force, which undertook the Biased Policing Project, should be re-established. A single study is not sufficient to guard against illegal profiling by police, especially when that study revealed such profiling by foot patrols in two locations. Continued monitoring should be done, in addition to cross-checking of stop data with other data sources, including arrest records and information on the number of cases that are “no-papered” by prosecut`ors. The Department’s own contractor, Dr. John C. Lamberth, recommended in the conclusion of his biased policing report that MPD “Continue to work with the Community-Police Task Force to provide updates and dialogue on agency activities that accompany the Biased Policing Project. Include members of the Task Force in educational and training opportunities and solicit sponsorship from Task Force members for future community outreach programs.” The time frame for action on this should be weeks, not months.

Unfortunately, on Wednesday, March 14, the same day Lanier declined to answer my follow-up question on reinstating the Task Force, a vicious letter went out over her signature to the Office of Police Complaints (OPC) in which she attacked OPC Executive Director Phil Eure and used her complaint about him to justify refusing to reinstate the Task Force. We consider this unacceptable, and we have a high opinion of Mr. Eure, who refuted the charges against him when they were first made by Chief Ramsey. Lanier’s office quickly told me that the letter had been signed by auto-pen without her final approval. Whatever the explanation, it does not speak well of the judgment and managerial competence in the Chief’s office.

Issue 5: In its Fiscal Year 2006 Annual Report, OPC reported to MPD more than 51 instances of police officers failing to cooperate with OPC in 2006. The Department did not take disciplinary action in approximately 92% of those cases. We learned on Monday that since January, on Lanier’s watch, MPD has exonerated 27 of 28 non-cooperating officers. She says that requiring officers to sign statements taken at OPC is inconsistent with the union contract and fair labor practice, and that OPC Director Phil Eure and the union are trying to work something out. If the impasse is not resolved, Council action may be needed to preserve the integrity of our police accountability system.

Issue 6: Over the years the name of one violently homophobic master patrol officer has repeatedly come up. He has assaulted or threatened several openly gay officers. If an officer behaves this way toward his fellow officers, how can he be trusted to protect civilians? As far as we are aware, the disciplinary action against him has consisted of demotion and transfer to another police district. Since the GLBT community lives in all parts of our city, merely moving an out-of-control officer around is no solution. Acting Chief Lanier said she agrees with us on this. She said there is a law requiring disciplinary action to be taken within 90 days of an alleged incident, barring the case being forwarded to the U.S. Attorney (in which case the 90-day clock stops during the U.S. Attorney’s investigation). She vows not to repeat the apparent foot-dragging of the past. We are only sorry that an officer who has repeatedly demonstrated his unworthiness to wear a badge and carry a gun must commit yet another violation before he can be punished as he deserves.

Issue 7: MPD has been tardy in issuing implementing regulations for Act 15-757, the First Amendment Rights and Police Standards Act of 2004. GLAA joined the ACLU, then-Councilmember Kathy Patterson, and the overwhelming majority of the Council in supporting that legislation, which was substantially motivated by the outrageous violations by police in a mass arrest at Pershing Park in September 2002 – violations which eventually cost the city hundreds of thousands of dollars. She reports that she has signed off on three sections of rulemaking on Act 15-757. She agreed with me that a previous MPD draft’s description of public protests as “criminal activity conducted under the guise of First Amendment activities” is unacceptable. We look forward to examining the new rulemaking, and will reserve comment until after that.

Regarding the notorious wrist-to-ankle cuffing with which Lanier has been associated (and which is now illegal), she told me that it was devised several years ago by her then superior, Asst. Chief Acosta, and was intended only for extreme circumstances. While she testified in a deposition that she tried the cuffing procedure on herself for 15 minutes and was not uncomfortable, she says she did not mean that it should be used on people for hours on end as was done to the Pershing Park protesters. We are relieved to hear that.

Chairman Mendelson, GLAA has a long record of giving credit where it is due. We do not seek an adversarial relationship with the Chief of Police, nor indeed with any District official. We simply have too many unresolved concerns to offer an endorsement today. We believe it is time for the Mayor to start over and conduct a proper search for a new chief – something he promised to do and to consult us about. As always, we are eager to continue working with MPD and our allied civil rights organizations to defend both the public safety and the civil liberties of all Washingtonians.

I will be happy to answer any questions you may have.

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