GLAA supports Lanier on police liaison units
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GLAA supports Lanier on police liaison units

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

Testimony for Public Oversight Hearing on
The Metropolitan Police Department

Delivered to the Committee on Public Safety and the Judiciary

November 30, 2007

Good afternoon, Chairman Mendelson. I am Rick Rosendall, Vice President for Political Affairs of the Gay and Lesbian Activists Alliance. I also serve on the Biased Policing Task Force of the Metropolitan Police Department. I am here to testify in favor of Chief Cathy Lanierís creation of the Special Liaison Unit (SLU), which provides a central command for the Departmentís four liaison units, including the award-winning Gay and Lesbian Liaison Unit (GLLU), which was the first such unit in the country to combine community relations with full policing powers.

On June 13, we learned of a plan by Chief Lanier to decentralize GLLU and reassign its officers to patrol districts around the city. We were alarmed by this and sent out an action alert the next day, providing our members, DC Council members, and the local media with a list of ten reasons why the unit should remain intact. Our friend Peter Rosenstein took similar action. This led to an outcry in defense of GLLU from across the spectrum of the GLBT community.

Chief Lanier met with community representatives on June 20. She acknowledged that MPD's communication of her plan was not done well. She listened to our concerns, and she asked us to give a rookie chief a chance. We are pleased to have given her that chance. She convinced us of her sincere commitment to changing the homophobic and transphobic culture in MPD over the long term. MPD obtained further input through a series of community meetings, and from ongoing communications between community leaders and MPD officials.

The main concern expressed by community members was that the cohesion and ďsafe spaceĒ provided by the centralized GLLU should be preserved. We also agreed with the Chief that the Unitís expertise was needed throughout the Department and the city. At that first meeting, Peter suggested that we could maintain the central core of the unit while recruiting more officers from PSAs around the city, who would be trained by GLLU and then returned to their patrol districts. That way, the Unitís citywide reach would be improved without losing the advantages of the centralized core. The Chief has embraced this win-win proposal.

I pointed out to Chief Lanier at the time that the outpouring of support by our community for a police unit showed how far we have come since the police entrapment of gay men and the raids of gay bars in the 1950s and 60sóand even since the Halloween riot against gays by police in 1991. I said that this strong community investment in a police unit was something to build on.

We believe that the following provisions are key:

Having been assured of these things, we are confident that the Chief is moving in the right direction. The placement of the SLU directly under the Chief, and the fact that our highly regarded friend, Sergeant Brett Parson, has been put in charge of it, give us further confidence. We wish to commend GLLUís current staff, including Sergeant Tania Bell and Officers Joseph Morquecho, Juanita Foreman, Zunnobia Hakir, Kevin Johnson, and Dustin Nevel, as well as the volunteer reserve and auxiliary members and victim services advocate.

We also wish to praise the Chief for her general order, ďHandling Interactions with Transgender Individuals,Ē issued Oct. 12 to insure professional, respectful and courteous interaction between MPD personnel and transgender people. Her collaboration with transgender activists in preparing the order was another demonstration of her commitment to our community.

On another issue, we are pleased to learn of the improvement in police officer cooperation with the Office of Police Complaints, one of the issues we raised in our testimony at the Chiefís confirmation hearing last March.

We look forward to continued collaboration with the Chief and the Gay and Lesbian Liaison Unit to improve the safety of all in our city.

I will be happy to answer any questions.

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