Montgomery Co. Committee Holds Hate-Crime Discussion

Community members focus on tracking crimes and LGBT cultural-sensitivity training

The Montgomery County Committee on Hate/Violence, part of the county’s Office of Human Rights, convened a meeting at the Rockville Memorial Library Town Center Wednesday to discuss how to best respond to violence or other acts against members of the county’s LGBT community.

The committee, appointed by the Montgomery County executive and tasked with educating the public about hate and violence and recommending policies or legislation to reduce the incidence of hate crimes, asked community members to engage in an open discussion.

During the June 12 meeting, attendees focused on two points: the ability of the Montgomery County Police Department to gather information about anti-LGBT incidents, and the need for comprehensive cultural-sensitivity training for officers interacting with members of the LGBT community.

Montgomery County Police Department Officer Michael Prather, who serves as an ex-officio, non-voting member of the committee representing the law-enforcement community, tried to answer questions posed by the audience regarding how hate crimes are tracked in the county and how police respond to a crime. Several audience members cited particular policies to deal with anti-LGBT violence that have been implemented in other police departments, including Baltimore City and the District of Columbia.

While no specific action was taken by the committee Wednesday, the meeting did serve as a ”fact-finding mission” of sorts that allowed the committee to hear the concerns of members of the LGBT community. Prather also offered to incorporate suggestions from audience members regarding LGBT cultural-sensitivity training into a potential curriculum that could be used to educate newer officers or cadets about how to interact successfully with the LGBT community in the course of performing their jobs.

The committee’s chair, Lorraine Lee-Stepney and her fellow committee members encouraged Prather to reach out to the county’s chief of police, J. Thomas Manger, and schedule a meeting for the chief to speak directly with members of the LGBT community about hate crimes.

Members of the audience, which included Jason Terry of the DC Trans Coalition (DCTC), Andrew Barnett of Supporting and Mentoring Youth Advocates and Leaders (SMYAL) and transgender activist Dr. Dana Beyer, a Montgomery County resident, were receptive to collaborating with the committee and the Police Department at future meetings.

John Riley is the local news reporter for Metro Weekly. He can be reached at jriley@metroweekly.com

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