D.C. Police Chief Cathy L. Lanier said the department will meet with the lesbian, gay and transgender residents to mediate issues after a recent three-hour hearing, where local LGBT activists complained that the D.C. Council and the police department are slow responders to hate crimes.
The group also alleged the police are failing to document bias-related incident reports. But Lanier refuted those claims, saying, “I’m not sure how we’re missing the mark here. I’ve personally gone to LGBT meetings.”
She said that there are six trained members of the police force in the Gay and Lesbian Liaison Unit (GLLU), who are available to handle hate crimes. Members of the Special Liaison Unit have participated in 100 events and 45 meetings within the past six months, according to Lanier.
“I feel bad for the GLLU members,” she said. “When they hear these comments…it’s a slap in the face for them.”
Although Lanier said her department has been engaged in the LGBT community, A.J. Singletary, president of Gays and Lesbians Opposing Violence, said the community has trust issues with the department.
“There’s clearly some disconnect,” Singletary said, citing incidents of repeat hate crime offenders and incorrect reporting of a hate crime.
“We have repeat offenders…because crime isn’t being tracked effectively in D.C.,” he said at the hearing. “We worked with cases where the crime wasn’t reported correctly.”
Singletary complained that some officers dismiss concerns or “laugh it off” when a member of the LGBT community reaches out to the police department.
Lanier said that the department requires officers to undergo mandatory online training in handling LGBT issues, to brief the community and to teach tolerance and safety in schools.
But Jason Terry of the D.C. Trans Coalition said while training is helping to ease trust issues, it’s not enough.
“We need to make sure prosecution of hate crimes actually happens,” he said.
Lanier said that incidents and hate crimes are different and admitted that the department may be “over reporting” hate crimes by including threats.
“Crimes like threats cannot be prosecuted as a hate crime,” Lanier said.
Police are required to file bias-related incidents, but so far, only seven sexual orientation incident reports have been filed, and Singletary said that number should be significantly higher.
After the third hate crime awareness meeting since 2008, Lanier agreed to Councilmember Phil Mendelson’s proposal to meet with community leaders in the next couple of months to discuss issues among LGBT residents.