GLAA testifies on hate crimes and police response
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GLAA on GLLU and Police Response to Hate Crimes

GLAA testifies on hate crimes and police response

Fighting for Equal Rights Since 1971
P. O. Box 75265
Washington, D.C. 20013
(202) 667-5139  

Testimony submitted for the record on
Hate Crimes in the District of Columbia and Police Response to Reports of Hate Crimes
Delivered before the Committee on the Judiciary
July 6, 2011

Good morning, Chairman Mendelson. I am Rick Rosendall, Vice President for Political Affairs of the Gay and Lesbian Activists Alliance, which has been fighting for LGBT equality in the District for forty years.

I am tempted to re-read my testimony from the hearing in November 2009, since it is sadly still current. I won’t do that, but I am here to reiterate those concerns and to reinforce GLOV and the DC Trans Coalition, whose efforts have been invaluable.

Listening to the testimony so far, I am reminded of a line from the movie Cool Hand Luke: “What we have here is a failure to communicate.” In that case, the failure was remedied by a severe beating. I would hope that we can do better here in D.C.

When we first began meeting with former Chief Charles Ramsey a dozen years ago, I had to rely on anecdotal evidence when I told him that transgender people are at greatest risk of both hate crimes and illegal profiling by police. Fortunately, since the last hearing there have been crucial improvements in data gathering on anti-transgender discrimination, with the recently released National Transgender Discrimination Survey and with GLOV’s efforts. At the previous hearing, I pointed out the need for MPD’s Incident Report, PD 251, to be updated to include all the types of bias. I would like to know if the form has been updated.

At the hearing in November 2009, I told about an incident involving my friend Sampson McCormick that had occurred in Ward 8, in which he and some friends overpowered some assailants and summoned police, but when the police arrived they treated the victims as the perpetrators. The officers also denied that the GLLU existed. It is unacceptable for hate crime victims to be treated as criminals.

The Chief’s Fair and Inclusive Policing Task Force, formerly the Biased Policing Task Force (and separate from the U.S. Attorney’s Hate Crimes Task Force), has been dormant for three years. In addition to GLAA, that task force had representation from the local chapters of the NAACP and ACLU and the National Black Police Association. These groups offered valuable insights in addition to their concerns, and it is regrettable that Chief Lanier seems uninterested in our input.

I don’t understand a civilian overseeing the police liaison units instead of a line officer. If a civilian in that position is okay, why not in the Chief’s position? That is a sincere question; I would like to know the answer.

I thank Kristopher Baumann of FOP for supporting the Gay and Lesbian Liaison Unit, though his belligerence was not helpful. As I have said before, we have always advocated and supported a GLLU with a citywide scope. The fact that its headquarters is located in Dupont Circle was never understood by any of us to mean that it was or should be focused exclusively or primarily in the Third District. A citywide scope for GLLU is fully consistent with preserving a strong core unit.

When Chief Lanier’s original reorganization efforts in 2007 were so badly received by the LGBT community (and, I might add that the Latino community was similarly upset about her plans to reorganize the Latino Liaison Unit), she asked us to give a rookie chief a break. We did so, and made it clear that we wanted a win-win solution in which we could stand behind her. The attrition of the GLLU’s core unit in the intervening years has been deeply unfortunate, particularly considering that it was an award-winning unit and a widely respected model of its kind.

Given the troubled history of our community’s relationship with the police, the fact that people from across the spectrum of our community strongly defended a police unit in 2007 should have been recognized by the Chief as a remarkable achievement and something to be preserved and built upon—not as a threat to her authority. The increased trust between LGBT citizens and police that was cultivated under the leadership of Brett Parson led to improved cooperation and increased the likelihood that a member of our community witnessing a crime would make the phone call that would assist police in doing their jobs.

We do not believe in making false generalizations against the police rank and file. We know we have allies on the force, good officers who are trying to do the right thing—just as we know that our community’s outreach efforts have not always been well received by the brass. We are proud of the role we played in establishing the independent Office of Police Complaints, whose work enhances fairness, accountability, and clarity. We are eager as ever to work respectfully and productively with the Chief and all who are committed to the public safety in our city.

Thank you.

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