Editors' Note: Guest blogger David Phillips is a poly Leather shaman, kink evangelist, and Queermen's health advocate living in Arlington, VA. A survivor of relationship abuse, David co-founded the Rainbow Response Coalition, addressing intimate partner violence among LGBTQ people in Metro DC.
Since 2000, the Metropolitan Police Department (MPD) and the Washington, D.C., LGBT communities have benefited from a highly visible, well-trained, and centrally managed Gay and Lesbian Liaison Unit (GLLU) that has received accolades from national and international law enforcement and human rights organizations. In recent months, however, without a coherent business case and with total disregard for community input, MPD Chief Cathy Lanier has launched a campaign to effectively disband the GLLU and all of the other Special Liaison Units.
This move concerns many local LGBT leaders who have partnered with the GLLU on public safety issues including domestic violence and hate crimes, just as it concerns Latino, Asian, and Deaf communities, the Special Liaison Units for which are also being gutted and left to the discretion of Police District commanders for ensuring appropriate training and ensuring adequate, round-the-clock coverage.
For officers in the police districts of our Nation's Capital who now elect to be representatives to the Lation, Asian, Dear, and LGBT communities, training begins on Monday, November 30, 2009. Unfortunately, community members have been shut out of curriculum development by Chief Lanier and her direct reports. While Asst. Chief Diane Groomes promised to provide training content to the interested parties for review by November 23, as of November 25 the only item shared was an agenda that confirmed fears that insufficient time was allotted to complex issues such as gender identity, understanding the origins and impacts of hate crime, and properly determining the primary aggressor when called to a domestic violence scene. Just as Chief Lanier's plan for re-organizing the Special Liaison Units fails to provide coordination to ensure 24/7/365 coverage by Liaison Unit members, the approach to training will fail to ensure culturally competent officers are delivered to the communities depending upon them.
Anyone who resides in or frequents the District of Columbia should be alarmed by what is taking place regarding the Special Liaison Units. While Council Member Phil Mendelsohn called a Police oversight hearing on November 20 regarding this issue, nothing appears to have changed. Chief Lanier, Mayor Adrian Fenty, and the D.C. City Council must hear from their constituents and other concerned people, to inform them that the dismantling of the Special Liaison Units is unacceptable and that the level of communication with the impacted communications has been unprofessional. The Special Liaison Units work very well when fully staffed and properly trained, and they do not need fixing.