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In an effort to reach out to LGBT organization leaders who have expressed concerns about safety and police decisions in recent months, Metropolitan Police Department Chief Cathy Lanier is meeting this afternoon with leaders of several LGBT organizations at MPD’s headquarters.
The meeting, at 300 Indiana Ave. NW, was scheduled following the July 6 hate crimes hearing, which was organized by Councilmember Phil Mendelson’s (D-At Large) Committee on the Judiciary.
Among those attending are Gay and Lesbian Activists Alliance vice president Rick Rosendall, Gays and Lesbians Opposing Violence’s Chris Farris and A.J. Singletary, DC Trans Coalition’s Ruby Corado and Jason Terry, Transgender Health Empowerment’s Earline Budd and Brian Watson and Rainbow Response Coalition’s June Crenshaw and Shauna Fecher — as well as community members Alison Gardner, Nick McCoy and Isaiah Toney.
Since coming on board as police chief, Lanier’s leadership has been criticized by some members of the local LGBT community for altering the functionality of the Gay and Lesbian Liaison Unit by disbanding the centralized Dupont Circle location and expanding services to all seven police districts.
Lanier’s handling of the GLLU has also come under question by D.C. elected officials, including Councilmember Jim Graham (D-Ward 1), who is gay.
Councilmember Jim Graham (D-Ward 1) made an appearance and agreed with those calling for the GLLU to be strengthened.
“Now we have a GLLU and I don’t even know if it’s worthy of the name,” Graham said. “What am I hearing today is that the gay and lesbian community and others are coming together and saying this isn’t right.
“The message today to the chief … is you’ve got to find a better way of engaging our community. And I have to ask again and again: Chief, why did you dismantle this?”
Lanier maintained, during that meeting, that dismantling the Dupont Circle-based core of GLLU, as it initially existed, and instead training a larger number of officers in GLLU methods is more effective.
But members of the local LGBT community have also expressed concern that the LGBT sensitivity and GLLU training for MPD officers is voluntary, not mandatory.
Problems with the relationship between Lanier and the local LGBT took another negative turn when Lashai Mclean, a 23-year-old transgender woman, was gunned down on July 20. In reporting the incident, MPD used Mclean’s birth-given male name, as well as a mug shot of Mclean in s flier asking for information about suspects.
Brian Watson, program director at Transgender Health Empowerment (THE), was frustrated that the police did not collaborate with the organization in seeking information about the victim as they had in the past when the GLLU was under the leadership of Sgt. Brett Parson.
“After all of this sensitivity training, it doesn’t make any sense,” Watson told Metro Weekly on July 23, hours before Mclean’s vigil.
“I mean, the DC Trans Coalition is going in and doing trainings with every MPD recruit class that comes through, but obviously there’s still a lot that we need to do. This is not about the officers who are on the street level. This must be more upper management and the communications department of the Police Department. I’m definitely looking forward to talking with the chief and the GLLU about how we move forward from here.”