NAACP task force writes to Chief Lanier on biased policing and liaison units
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NAACP task force writes to Chief Lanier on biased policing and liaison units



From:NAACP Police Task Force
Sent:Wednesday, June 20, 2007 11:41 AM
To:Lanier, Cathy (MPD)
Cc:dccouncilmembers@dccouncil.us
Subject:Biased Policing and Liaison Units


June 20, 2007

Cathy Lanier
Chief of Police
Metropolitan Police Department
300 Indiana Avenue, NW
Washington, DC 20001

Dear Chief Lanier:

I hope this note finds you well. First of all, allow me to congratulate you on your appointment as Chief of the Metropolitan Police. As one who was a member of the search committee that selected Chief Ramsey, I have learned a little about what qualifies one to lead law enforcement in a community as culturally diverse as ours and one passionately committed to advocating its causes. I trust you will agree that we may well reside in what is known as the Nation's Capital, but that we really live in a small town. This perspective enables the kind of collective decision-making that gives everyone ownership in the progress of our city. We have been fortunate that many of the major crises that have occurred between local police departments and communities around the country have been avoided in the District. In recent years, the office you have inherited along with our organization, other community groups and citizens have engaged in an ongoing dialogue that may not have avoided tension, but, at least, kept a lid on the paternalism so characteristic of many other police departments. I trust you will agree, also, that this kind of dialogue should proceed. As far as I am concerned, the root of real community policing is the kind of dialogue we have enjoyed with your department in recent years.

The NAACP Metropolitan Police & Criminal Justice Review Task Force (Police Task Force) was founded as a coalition of culturally diverse, local and national community groups. Our advocacy brought about the Police Complaints Board and the Biased Policing Task Force, of which several of our founders—Steve Block (ACLU), Ron Hampton (NBPA) and Rick Rosendall (GLAA)—are active members. Upon Chief Ramsey's departure there was some indication that the Biased Policing Task Force would be dissolved. (I sent you a letter expressing the Police Task Force's concerns about this, but you never responded.) Despite its convening last month, we understand that there is a discussion about the Chief's Community Advisory Council absorbing the Biased Policing Task Force. The NAACP Police Task Force strongly dissents, and suggests that the Biased Policing Task Force remain intact, to address the Police Complaints Board's Recommendations transmitted to you on May 17. The Biased Policing Task Force's work is not done. The NAACP Police Task Force respectfully urges you to reconvene the Biased Policing Task Force and to implement the Police Complaints Board's Recommendations.

In that, there is a direct relationship between issues of cultural diversity, awareness and sensitivity, and the ongoing work of the Biased Policing Task Force, the NAACP Police Task Force also respectfully urges you to affect a moratorium on any decisions regarding cultural diversity, awareness and sensitivity. This includes the decentralization of the Gay & Lesbian Liaison Unit and the Latino Liaison Unit.

The Police Complaints Boards Recommendations include the language: "educate officers on how to most effectively interact with people of varying races, ethnicities and traditions." You along with a reconvened Biased Policing Task Force should carefully assess the success of these liaison units in this regard before summarily decentralizing them.

Keeping a liaison unit centralized maximizes its resources so that they can be directed as need and when needed anywhere in the city, while creating a safe space for members of at-risk populations to be comfortable reporting problems to police. Centralized liaison units help build trust between the police and the populations served, which in turn promotes better cooperation between citizens and police, and mutual ownership in the solution to our city's problems. We may work in coalition, but we practice the principle of "unity in diversity." All of the populations in our diverse city are not the same, and they have distinct needs that are better served by means of these specialized units. The Mount Pleasant riots of May 1991, and the history of entrapment of gay men by police going back half a century, should remind us that one size does not fit all. Maintaining the cohesion of these Units maximizes the availability of their resources 24 hours a day to respond to whatever cases may arise anywhere in town; from homicides to hate crimes to domestic violence cases in which specialized sensitivity and discretion are particularly important.

The late psychologist, Dr. Amos Wilson, wrote in his book, Black-On-Black Violence, a list of conditions necessary "if the African American community, in cooperation with the law enforcement and criminal justice establishments, is to commit itself effectively to the support of the nation's laws, their enforcement, and is to prevent or significantly reduce criminal activity in its midst." While Dr. Wilson addressed the African American community, primarily, his conditions are applicable to all diverse communities. To paraphrase, his conditions include:

The reconvening of the Biased Policing Task Force, the implementation of the Police Complaint Board's Recommendations, the maintenance of the liaison units and the affecting of a moratorium on any decisions regarding cultural diversity, awareness and sensitivity pending the reconvening of the Biased Policing Task Force would go a long way toward accomplishing these conditions. In the interest of the very diversity that enabled you to become only the second female police chief on the District, the NAACP Police Task Force respectfully urges you to take these actions.

I look forward to beginning our ongoing dialogue, and wish you great success as our new chief.

Sincerely,

The Rev. Mark A. Thompson
Chair
NAACP Metropolitan Police & Criminal Justice Review Task Force
NAACP DC Branch
1000 U Street, NW
Suite 100
Washington, DC 20001
naacppolicetaskforce@gmail.com


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