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The Stewards of Gay Washington

Hakir mentions that the unit handles domestic violence between same-sex couples. A man in the corner shakes his head. He says he called the police once when he and his partner were fighting, and one of the cops said to the other, "Lock both [their] gay asses up."

Back in her police cruiser, Hakir has theories about why most of the unit's cases involve men. "Women are different," she says. "Women find someone to fall in love with, and they just want to stay up in the house and cook." There are exceptions. Earlier that day, she witnessed female psychological warfare when a 22-year-old lesbian came into the office to file a stalking complaint.

D.C. police Sgt. Brett Parson chuckles at the response from a driver he has stopped on a traffic violation. (Carol Guzy -- The Washington Post)

A Different Mission to Serve: Sgt. Brett Parson commands D.C.'s Gay and Lesbian Liaison Unit, the only unit of its kind in the country to offer community outreach services and to perform traditional police work.
A Squad's Complicated Beat
_____Live Discussion_____
Transcript: Chris Crain, executive editor of the Washington Blade, answered your questions about the D.C. police Gay and Lesbian Liaison Unit.

The woman said her ex had illegally obtained her transcripts showing her failing grades and sent them to her parents. "For a while it was chill, and then I step back into the clubs, and she's reminded that I exist, and it starts all over again," the blue-eyed woman told Hakir. "I know the extent of her craziness."

Hakir receives a text message from Parson, who is across town. The unit is still helping homicide detectives work the case involving the government employee strangled in his downtown apartment. A snitch has told Parson that the man liked to visit the male prostitutes who work the corner of Fifth and E streets NW, outside the U.S. Court of Appeals, so the unit has been making nightly sweeps.

"See what you can find, Z," Parson tells Hakir.

Hakir drives to the corner. She wonders how anyone could work on this frozen night, but there is a man standing on the corner with his hands jammed in his pockets. Hakir shows him a photo. "I know exactly who you talkin' about," the man says, looking at the picture of the victim. "He dates. He takes people with him in the cab. I told him you can't trust people down here. They smoke crack.

"I haven't seen him in a while."

When Hakir asks for his address, the man says he lives in a nearby homeless shelter. He turns tricks to survive. "I ain't racist," he says. "I date white guys, too."

Hakir shivers. "Money's green."

Every Friday afternoon, Parson teaches at the police academy. One year, he taught the basics of gay life. This year, it's same-sex domestic violence. Every Friday, over and over, until all 3,800 sworn D.C. police officers hear it.

He stands at the chalkboard and looks across the classroom of blue uniforms. Some cops are at ease with the topic and others laugh nervously. Parson is realistic. His goal is not to change their attitudes but to change their behavior on the streets.

"Gay," Parson shouts. "Say it. Your wrist isn't going to go limp or anything."

He begins by explaining that gay is more than sexual behavior. "It can mean a relationship," he says. "How many of you are still married? Then you know what I mean."

Domestic violence is no more frequent among gay couples, but the injuries often are more severe, Parson tells them. One man attacks, the other is more likely to defend himself with equal strength, and the violence escalates from there. Parson presents a familiar scenario to the officers: answering a call and finding two men in the same residence.

Parson raises his voice. "Because it's two men, you do not leave that call," he says. Go inside. Look around. What are the clues that might suggest the men are in a relationship?

"Both of their names on the mail," a female officer says.

"Shoes. Yeah, are there different size shoes in the house?"

"How many bedrooms are occupied."

"Good," Parson says. "What about pictures? Are there photos of two guys going back to vacations 30 years ago when they both were skinny and had hair? What else do you see that tells you they are gay?"

"I know," one officer says. "Lesbians wear rings on their thumbs."

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