D.C. police release two-year review critical of their handling of LGBT bias cases

February 26

D.C. Police Chief Cathy L. Lanier acknowledged Wednesday that the department has “fallen short” in building strong bonds with gay men and lesbians and victims of hate crimes, and she vowed to implement many of the recommendations of a task force convened at her request.

Lanier said in the task force’s report that the department needs “to revise and update training across the board” in relation to LGBT issues and victims of hate crimes. She added that the department won’t expand its liaison officers program for now, although “it is clear that the performance and commitment of current members must be reviewed and evaluated.”

After repeated outcries of bias from activists in recent years, Lanier called for a task force in 2011 to evaluate the department’s handling of hate crimes and a relationship that had soured between D.C. police and the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community. Task force members interviewed community members, D.C. police and others to produce the 51-page report.

The task force found that problems began after Lanier restructured the Gay and Lesbian Liaison Unit in 2009. The move was designed to improve outreach efforts across the city’s seven police districts, rather than keeping a single, centralized gay-liaison unit based in Dupont Circle, she said.

Instead, the restructured unit was “universally perceived within the LGBT community as the starting point for the deterioration of its relationship” with the department, the report said.

The task force also pointed out the case of Officer Kenneth Furr, who in August 2011 fired five shots at the occupants of a packed car minutes after offering a transgender woman money for sex. Furr was sentenced in January 2013 to 14 months in prison in the incident. Police officials wrote that the department took the strongest actions against Furr that it could.

“One incident can exacerbate mistrust and perception of a Department that is antagonistic toward the transgender community,” the report says.

The report noted a consistent increase in reported hate crimes from 2008 through 2011. Twenty-nine such crimes attributed to sexual orientation were reported in 2008; the figure jumped to 43 in 2011.

Eleven transgender people were killed in the District from 2000 to 2013, the report says. Three of those deaths have occurred since 2009. Most recently, a man who had begun to dress as a woman was killed in 2011.

The task force also criticized the department’s lack of a standardized curriculum on hate crimes. The report also found that police officials “received little or no meaningful training on hate crimes.” Instead, officials have used online training modules that the task force found to be superficial and inaccurate.

Members of the task force included representatives from the Anti-Defamation League, the Human Rights Campaign, the National Center for Transgender Equality and the Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights.

Lanier said she accepted the vast majority of the report’s findings and planned to adopt them. “I look forward to working” with the LGBT community to implement the recommendations, she said in a statement.

Clarence Williams is the night police reporter for The Washington Post and has spent the better part of 13 years standing next to crime scene tape, riding in police cars or waking officials in the middle of night to gather information about breaking news in and around Washington.
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