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September 29, 2009

GLOV co-chairs write to Mayor, Police Chief on GLLU

Chris Farris and Todd Metrokin, the co-chairs of GLOV, sent the following message this morning to D.C. Police Chief Cathy Lanier and Mayor Adrian Fenty:

Chief Lanier and Mayor Fenty:

We write with a sense of disappointment over the lack of communication and engagement with the LGBT community over recent significant changes to the Gay and Lesbian Liaison Unit (GLLU) of the MPD.

We learned last Saturday from Brett Parson, the Lieutenant who was responsible for all of the Liaison Units and the acting commander of the GLLU, that he was being transferred effective *that night* to a new role at his request. We were told by Brett that Carlos Mejia, the Sergeant of the Latino Liaison Unit, would assume an acting role of also commanding the GLLU in addition to his current duties.

We have also recently learned that the 4 remaining GLLU officers (down from 7 in 2007) no longer have access to patrol calls when off-duty and are no longer permitted to respond to calls to the GLLU without escalating their request all the way to Assistant Chief Groomes, effectively eliminating the possibility for a timely response to such a request for assistance from the LGBT community. There has been no dedicated, full-time Sergeant in charge of the GLLU since 2007. Moreover, the GLLU along with other liaison units was recently moved from the Chief’s Office to Patrol Services.

When we met with you in January, we left with a sense of optimism and hope that the lines of communication had been opened and that a partnership had been forged. We immediately issued a press release praising you both for the meeting and lauding Chief Lanier's plans for expanding the GLLU as innovative and exciting. We embarked on a campaign to help the Chief sell her idea to the LGBT community, and offered her a public forum for her to do so. We worked closely with the GLLU to engage in real community policing, build trust within the community, and perform significant outreach. We also worked with GLLU to provide for better hate crimes tracking and stronger reporting from victims. Finally, we printed the GLLU number on all of our safety cards and urged all LGBT community members to program the number into their cell phones and call it if they are a victim of a crime.

Since 2007 when Chief Lanier first suggested her plan of expanding the GLLU by training officers from each of the precincts, not one officer has been trained to serve in GLLU, and the above actions by the Chief have raised serious concerns within the community. While there may be very legitimate reasons for these actions, there has been no effort whatsoever to communicate these reasons, engage the community, explain what is happening, solicit input, or provide for any transition from Brett to his successor(s). The result is an unfortunate -- and hopefully unnecessary -- lack of trust in these decisions.

We note that these changes are being made against the backdrop of a now demonstrated and proven increase in hate crimes against the LGBT community in the District. We also note that D.C. has the highest percentage of LGBT hate crimes (as compared to other hate crimes) *in the entire country*. The essence of the award-winning GLLU was community policing at its finest -- real communication, open dialog, community participation, and trust by victims and witnesses. All of this is now at risk because these decisions have been made in a vacuum and so poorly communicated.

We are requesting that you take the time to meet with us to explain these decisions and seek the input of the people you are here to protect and serve. We are also requesting that GLLU staffing and response ability be restored to its previous levels until a transition can be worked out for the Chief's expanded Liaison Unit plans. We urge you to accept our offer for a meeting to go over these decisions and provide the community with both an explanation of the context and rationale for these decisions, as well as the plan for transitioning and moving forward.

Thank you for your attention to this serious matter.

Chris Farris
Todd Metrokin
Co-Chairs
GLOV
DC's LGBT Anti-Violence Task Force

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