Metro Weekly

Opposing Viewpoints

Police, LGBT community remain conflicted on GLLU training

Assistant Police Chief Diane Groomes of the Metropolitan Police Department (MPD) wants the local LGBT community to meet 35 officers, whom she claims are now trained and on call to respond to requests for services provided by the MPD’s Gay and Lesbian Liaison Unit (GLLU).

”These members will call in every day that they’re working and say, ‘Hey, I’m GLLU, I’m on duty. If anything should happen, call me.’ So they’ll be available to respond.”

A rift has formed between the LGBT community and the MPD on the evolving nature of the GLLU, as the community remains on alert after a number of violent homophobic and transphobic attacks in 2008 and 2009. An award-winning unit in 2005, under MPD Chief Cathy Lanier the Dupont Circle-based staff of the unit is being reformed into a much smaller core, while giving a broader range of officers some GLLU training.

Groomes says the officers, who will soon be attending local meetings and events for the LGBT community were among a larger group of officers who participated in a first round of voluntary training, Nov. 30 to Dec. 3, for members of the force seeking to work for the department’s Special Liaison Units, which include the GLLU.

That training has come under major criticism over the past few weeks by local LGBT groups, such as Gays and Lesbians Opposing Violence (GLOV) and Rainbow Response, who say Lanier pledged to include them in drafting this new training curriculum. That never happened. Members of the community who participated in the training describe that training as “inadequate.” Representatives from these groups and others also expressed frustration that the invitation was a last-minute inclusion.

Chris Farris, co-chair of GLOV, spoke at the training Thursday, Dec. 3, to a group of about 30 officers. He says only 13 identified themselves as training specifically for the GLLU.

”I asked the question of whether they understood the difference between ‘sexual orientation’ and ‘gender identity’ and it was extremely clear that few, if any, had any idea of the difference,” Farris says. ”This was the fourth day of the training. This was supposed to be the training day for just the GLLU, and we were still at the stage where they didn’t know the difference between sexual orientation and gender identity.”

Groomes says the MPD is listening to the complaints.

”Could we have done better? Yes,” she says.

”There were some time constraints on this, but I think the chief and I know we reached out to anyone who wanted to add their input. I think from here we’re going to continue that dialogue and see what kind of recommendations they have for next time.”

Groomes says officers who participated in last week’s training have been advised to attend at least two local LGBT community meetings and one larger community event to introduce themselves to the community they will serve. She says those officers will work also work a ”30-day rotation with the GLLU” before taking on ”advanced training in June 2010.

”[We] would like to ask the community to put the curriculum together for the advanced training because most of the people that went to the training said they really loved the speakers … and they want more time with the speakers, versus reading our general order.”

Despite his disapproval of the handling of the training, Farris remains committed to the cause.

”We have no choice,” he says. ”Our back is against the wall. It’s either we walk away and ignore the partnership, or we build it and make it work. That doesn’t mean I’m not extremely disappointed in Chief Lanier.”