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Attack ad blames Mendelson for rise in hate crimes

Phil Mendelson, D.C. Council, Washington Blade, gay news

‘Rather than doing nothing, I publicly disagreed with the MPD’s decision to reorganize the GLLU,’ said Council Chair Phil Mendelson. (Washington Blade file photo by Michael Key)

LGBT activists are defending D.C. Council Chair Phil Mendelson (D-At-Large) against an election campaign ad by the D.C. police union that accuses him of failing to take steps to prevent the number of anti-LGBT hate crimes from nearly doubling between 2009 and 2011.

The Fraternal Order of Police, Metropolitan Police Department Labor Committee (FOP), which serves as a police union, is calling on city residents to “vote no on Phil Mendelson” in the April 1 primary in which he is running for re-election.

Rick Rosendall, president of the Gay and Lesbian Activists Alliance; transgender activist Jeri Hughes; and gay activist and Advisory Neighborhood Commissioner Bob Summersgill called Mendelson a champion of LGBT rights and disputed the FOP’s claim that he didn’t adequately respond to hate crimes targeting the LGBT community.

In what appears to be a first-of-its-kind attack ad accusing a politician of failing to protect the safety of the LGBT community, the FOP ad says that when Mendelson was chair of the Council’s Judiciary and Public safety Committee in 2009, he “sat by and did nothing as the Metropolitan Police Department’s Gay and Lesbian Liaison Unit (GLLU) was dismantled.”

The ad, which the FOP posted on its website and placed in the Washington Blade, goes on to say, “The result of Mendelson’s failure to act? The police department’s effectiveness in responding to hate crimes was weakened and it led to an almost 50 percent jump in hate crimes based on sexual orientation.”

Kristopher Baumann, chair of the FOP, told the Blade that LGBT organizations and activists joined the FOP in 2009 in criticizing a decision by the police department to reorganize and restructure the GLLU in a way that most activists said would decrease its effectiveness.

Baumann noted that concerns about the GLLU reorganization were found to be correct by a report assessing the police handling of anti-LGBT hate crimes released earlier this year. The report was prepared by an independent task force created and led by the Anti-Defamation League of the national capital area at the request of D.C. Police Chief Cathy Lanier.

Most LGBT activists don’t dispute the findings of the task force report that the reorganization of the GLLU by Lanier led to its becoming less effective in addressing hate crimes and led to strains in relations between the LGBT community and the police department. But Mendelson and some of his LGBT supporters, including Rosendall and Hughes, dispute the claim that Mendelson was responsible for these developments.

“The charge is inaccurate and false,” Mendelson told the Blade in a statement on Monday. “Rather than doing nothing, I publicly disagreed with the MPD’s decision to reorganize the GLLU, and this was the subject of a number of public hearings that I held — including several specifically focused on hate crime and MPD’s handling of hate crime,” he said.

Mendelson said he held separate hearings on hate crimes and determined that the increase in hate crimes targeting the LGBT community was likely due, in part, to improved reporting of hate crimes on the part of LGBT victims rather than an actual increase in the number of such crimes.

“It’s easy for negative campaigns to level false charges days before an election, but the charges neither comport with the facts, nor are echoed by any of the LGBT groups that have actually worked on this problem,” Mendelson said.

“This campaign to hold Phil Mendelson accountable is nothing more than an egregious campaign to smear and malign,” said Hughes. “I know several rank and file officers,” she said. “None of them feel that Phil Mendelson deserves this abuse – none.”

Baumann, who has been a longtime critic of Chief Lanier, said Mendelson held “hearing after hearing” but chose not to take legislative action to correct longstanding problems associated with hate crimes reporting and the police Gay and Lesbian Liaison Unit.

Mendelson said the hearings were productive and that none of the LGBT advocacy groups or Baumann proposed legislative changes at that time.

“They forced MPD to address the issue — prior thereto they were downplaying it,” Mendelson said of the hearings. “Police handling of [hate crimes] reports improved.”

According to Mendelson, the hearings also prompted the independent Office of Police Complaints, which investigates citizen complaints against police officers, to weigh in on the issue and led to the revival of the then inactive group Gays and Lesbians Against Violence (GLOV).

Baumann said the FOP has not endorsed Mendelson’s Democratic opponent in the primary, Calvin Gurley. Baumann said the police union’s ad campaign was aimed at urging voters to “take another look” at Mendelson and decide how best to vote both in the primary and, if Mendelson wins on Tuesday, as expected, whether to vote for an opponent that surfaces in the November general election.

GLAA gave Mendelson a +10 rating on LGBT issues on a rating scale of -10 to +10, the highest possible score. The group gave Gurley a +1 rating.

Although most political observers believe Mendelson is the odds-on favorite to win Tuesday’s primary, Gurley received close to 69,342 votes when he ran against Mendelson in a special election in 2012. According to Board of Elections returns, Mendelson won that election with 174,742 votes, with 3,017 voters writing in someone else’s name on the ballot.

Hassan Naveed, co-chair of Gays and Lesbians Opposing Violence, and Jason Terry, an official with the D.C. Trans Coalition, didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment on the FOP’s attack ad targeting Mendelson.

31
Mar
2014

Lanier gives briefing on police-trans issues

Cathy Lanier, DC Metro Police, gay news, Washington Blade

D.C. Police Chief Cathy Lanier (Washington Blade photo by Strother Gaines)

D.C. Police Chief Cathy Lanier told a transgender community town hall meeting Tuesday night that her department is moving quickly to implement recommendations by an independent task force on ways to improve police response to crimes targeting the transgender community.

Lanier, who was joined by nearly a dozen high-level police officials, including a captain and sergeant in charge of the police Gay and Lesbian Liaison Unit, said the overwhelming majority of officers are sensitive to the needs and concerns of transgender citizens.

She said that in cases where members of the LGBT community in general and the trans community in particular encounter improper or abusive treatment by a police officer, such incidents should immediately be reported to the department through an established complaint process.

“If there is wrongdoing on the part of a police officer, we want to know about it,” she said. “We should address that, and we will.”

The town hall event was sponsored jointly by the D.C. Trans Coalition, Casa Ruby, Gays and Lesbians Opposing Violence (GLOV), the Gay and Lesbian Activists Alliance, the LGBT youth advocacy group SMYAL and the sex worker advocacy group HIPS.

The meeting was held in a community room of the D.C. Department of Employment Services on Minnesota Ave, N.E.

The sponsoring groups asked Lanier to discuss the department’s response to the findings and recommendations of a 41-page report prepared by the Hate Crimes Assessment Task Force, an independent body created by the Anti-Defamation League of Washington at Lanier’s request.

Among other things, the task force found that although the “vast majority of MPD leaders and personnel” are committed to the security and safety of the LGBT community, shortcomings exist in the department’s relations with the transgender community.

“With the exception of GLLU officers, most transgender people do not trust the police and believe that MPD officers too frequently see them as criminals because they are transgender,” the report states.

The report says the task force conducted its research between April 2012 and September 2013, which included “extensive interviews with LGBT leaders and advocates, LGBT community members, and MPD personnel of all ranks throughout the department,” with an emphasis on officers assigned to hate crimes, LGBT outreach and related duties.

In response to at least two-dozen questions from audience members, Lanier outlined the department’s efforts to address issues raised by the task force report, most of which are included as an addendum to the report.

The department has already taken steps to revamp the GLLU’s officer affiliate program to improve the training and selection of GLLU affiliate officers, who are assigned to each of the department’s eight police districts throughout the city.

The task force report says many in the LGBT community expressed concern that the GLLU became more distant and less visible to the community after the affiliate program was created by Lanier to expand the reach of the GLLU beyond its half dozen or so “core” officers.

Lanier said her supervisors in the police districts are now carefully assessing how the GLLU affiliate members are interacting with the community. Those found not to have a “good fit” for community interaction will be reassigned to other duties and officers more suited for the GLLU’s duties will replace them, she said.

“So we’ve come a long way,” she told the Blade after the meeting. “Are there individuals in the department — we have almost 5,000 employees — that may harbor a bias? Of course there are. But we can’t let that define our organization. We have to let the mass of the police define our organization and keep looking to get rid of people who don’t belong here,” she said.

Veteran transgender activist Earline Budd and Jason Terry, a member of the D.C. Trans Coalition, said they were optimistic that Lanier will carry out the task force report’s recommendations for improving the department’s relations with the trans community.

12
Jun
2014

Trans activist Roberta Gills dies at 63

Roberta Gills, gay news, Washington Blade

Roberta Gills, an active member of the D.C. Trans Coalition, died June 7 after a battle with cancer. (Photo by Shannon Wyss)

Roberta “Bobbie” Gills, a longtime advocate for transgender equality and an active member of the D.C. Trans Coalition, died June 7 following a battle with cancer. She was 63.

A statement released by D.C. Trans Coalition organizer Jason Terry says Gills was born in D.C. and lived most of her life in Arlington, Va.

“Bobbie was a tireless advocate for human rights,” Terry said. “She joined the D.C. Trans Coalition in 2009 and she quickly sparked conversations that ultimately led to the successful passage of the Deoni Jones Birth Certificate Equality Act last year [by the D.C. City Council].”

Gills became a leader in D.C.’s Trans Needs Assessment Project and represented DCTC at a number of events,” Terry said.

According to Terry, Gills worked for many years in the parts department at a car dealership in Arlington before she was fired after she came out as transgender.

“Undaunted, she increased her activist efforts, enrolled at Northern Virginia Community College (NOVA) and also began working with the Kiwanis Club,” Terry said. She served from 2012 to 2013 as co-chair of the Capital Trans Pride celebration. She later graduated from NOVA with honors, according to a write-up released by family members.

“She was one of the most generous people I knew,” said DCTC organizer Shannon Wyss. “Cancer has claimed another wonderful person, someone who found her truth, lived it despite its costs and because of its triumphs, and advocated so that others could be as true to themselves as she,” Wyss said.

Gills is survived by her mother, Clara S. Gills; her brother, George W. Gills; sister-in-law, Thu Nyugen; and sisters Suzanne J. Macinnis and Janet G. Kimble along with many cousins, aunts and friends.

A funeral service was held June 12 at Murphy’s Funeral Home in Arlington. Interment took place at Mount Comfort Cemetery in Alexandria, Va.

Family members suggest that donations in her honor be made to the D.C. Trans Coalition or the Northern Virginia Community College Education Fund.

02
Jul
2014

‘Incumbent’ slate wins Stein Club elections

Angela Peoples, Gertrude Stein Democratic Club, gay news, Washington Blade

Angela Peoples won election as the Stein Club’s president Monday night in a hotly contested race. (Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

The Gertrude Stein Democratic Club’s vice president for legislative and political affairs, Angela Peoples, won election as the club’s president Monday night in a hotly contested race against transgender activist and longtime club member Jeri Hughes.

Peoples ran on a slate that she and Stein Club President Martin Garcia organized after the two decided to swap positions, with Garcia stepping down as president to run for the vice presidential position currently held by Peoples.

Peoples won by a vote of 49 to 24. Garcia ran unopposed and was declared the winner of the vice president’s position by acclamation.

Stein Club members supporting both Peoples and Hughes said both candidates were well qualified to serve as president but a majority chose Peoples as part of a new, younger leadership team that won control of the club in its 2012 election on a platform of reinvigorating the organization by aggressively building a larger, more diverse membership.

“This year we saw a lot of energy and enthusiasm and I think we’re going to carry that into 2014,” Peoples said after the election results were announced. “We’re going to continue to raise money, we’re going to reach out and hold candidates accountable to move our community and our issues forward,” she said, referring to next year’s D.C. mayoral and City Council elections.

“The Stein Club will be fine,” Hughes told the Blade in a statement after the election. “It was a fair election. I truly appreciate the support that I received.”

The Stein Club, which celebrated its 37th anniversary in October, is the city’s largest LGBT political organization.

Peoples and Garcia earlier this month invited three new members of the club — Diana Bui, Terrance Laney and Bobbie Strang — to join their slate of candidates for vice president for administration, treasurer and secretary respectively. Laney and Strang won in uncontested races after incumbent treasurer Barrie Daneker chose not to run for re-election and incumbent secretary Jimmie Luthuli ran for vice president for administration.

Shortly after Luthuli announced her intent to run for the vice presidential post Bui entered the race for the position as a member of the Garcia-Peoples slate.

During a candidate discussion period on Monday, Bui described herself as a “Vietnamese-American queer” who has worked in the fields of public relations, media and social justice advocacy. She said she would become a “fearless” advocate for LGBT equality if elected to the position.

Luthuli, who was not part of the Garcia-Peoples slate in the 2012 club election, said her status as a longtime club member and LGBT rights advocate would bring continuity and more experience to the club’s leadership team.

Bui beat Luthuli in the race for the vice president for administration post by a vote of 40 to 31.

Biographical information on members of their slate released by Garcia and Peoples says Bui serves as co-chair of the National Asian Pacific American Women’s Forum D.C. Chapter. She also heads the immigration advocacy work for the Asian Pacific Labor Alliance in the role of membership and chapter coordinator, according to the biographical information.

Laney, the club’s treasurer-elect, recently worked on the successful marriage equality campaign in Rhode Island and previously served as special assistant to the CEO at the LGBT advocacy group National Black Justice Coalition.

Strang, who will assume her duties as Stein secretary in January, has been active with the D.C. Trans Coalition, Gays and Lesbians Opposing Violence (GLOV), and the D.C. Center, information released by the club says. It says she has also worked at the D.C. Office of Latino Affairs and currently works as the first openly transgender employee at the D.C. Department of Employment Services.

Monday night’s election came just under a year after Garcia, Peoples and Villano organized a successful challenge to a slate organized by then-Stein Club President Lateefah Williams, resulting in the ouster of the club’s established leadership.

Supporters credited Garcia, a political consultant, with helping to recruit as many as 50 new members in December 2012 to back his slate, prompting Hughes and other longtime members of the club to complain that the new group “stacked” the election.

But Garcia and others, including many of the club’s longtime members, acknowledged that signing up new members immediately prior and up to the time of the election meeting was permitted under the club’s bylaws.

Earlier this year the club voted to change the bylaws to require that people be members of the club for at least 30 days to be eligible to vote in a club officers election.

Gertrude Stein Democratic Club, Bob Kuntzler, gay news, Washington Blade

Members of the Stein Club cast ballots for their 2014 leadership. (Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

Correction: This story originally reported that the vote for president was 73-24 instead of 49-24. We regret the error.

19
Nov
2013

Mayor confirms D.C. withholding funds from trans group

Vince Gray, Washington D.C., gay news, Washington Blade

‘We’ll work with them to try to get this resolved,’ said Mayor Vince Gray about T.H.E. ‘But they’re going to have to pay the taxes.’ (Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

D.C. Mayor Vincent Gray acknowledged that tax liens filed against Transgender Health Empowerment by the IRS has forced the city to discontinue its funding for the organization, even though it has provided important services for the transgender community.

In an interview with the Washington Blade on Saturday, Gray said he was aware of ongoing financial problems at THE, the city’s oldest and most prominent transgender advocacy and services organization.

Among other things, the group has provided HIV and housing-related services for transgender clients through funding from city grants.

“I don’t know the details of how much and that sort of thing,” Gray said in referring to how much money THE owes the IRS.

“But any organization that has a grant from the government is going to have to comply with the basic rules of conformance with the requirements of the government, including paying your taxes,” he said.

“So while they certainly have been helpful and I have a lot of admiration for that organization, they are going to have to straighten this out,” Gray said. “It wouldn’t be fair if organization X is absolved of responsibility and organization Y would be held accountable for this.”

Added Gray, “So we’ll work with them to try to get this resolved. But they’re going to have to pay the taxes. There’s no question about that….It’s a basic, fundamental rule that any organization that has a grant or contract with the government – they have to take care of these basic administrative responsibilities.”

Gray’s comments came at a time when transgender activists have expressed concern that the D.C. Department of Health, which is responsible for monitoring THE grants, has not said whether it’s taking steps to redirect the group’s clients to other service providers.

“Transgender Health Empowerment (THE) has had to dramatically curtail their services due to financial difficulties,” said the D.C. Trans Coalition in a statement on May 9.

“This reduction happened very suddenly, and services trans community members depend on have been abruptly cut off,” the statement says. “Immediate action must be taken to ensure THE clients get services they need to ensure continuity of care.”

The statement says D.C. Trans Coalition “stands with THE’s clients and calls on the D.C. government, as THE’s primary funder, to act quickly to make sure that necessary services continue.”

A spokesperson for the Department of Health, as well as its gay interim director, Dr. Saul Levin, and the gay head of the department’s HIV/AIDS office, Dr. Gregory Pappas, have not responded to requests for comment and requests for information on the THE situation from the Blade.

THE’s executive director, Anthony Hall, has also declined to comment. Brian Devine, THE’s finance manager, told the Blade the group’s board of directors, which met recently, decided the organization would not issue a statement at the present time.

Transgender activist Ruby Corado, director of Casa Ruby, an LGBT community center in Columbia Heights that reaches out to the Latino and transgender communities, said THE clients have approached Casa Ruby for assistance after discovering that services at THE were no longer available to them.

She said officials with the Department of Health had not responded to her request for information about who, if anyone, would provide help for the THE clients displaced by THE’s reduction in services.

“I have an issue with the government doing that,” Corado said. “You just don’t drop people like that. If you are withholding money from an agency that is providing services you need to make sure that in the meantime you are able to transition the clients,” she said. “And I don’t think that has happened.”

Public records at the D.C. Office of the Recorder of Deeds show that the IRS filed at least 10 liens against THE since early 2010. Most are due to THE’s failure to pay employee payroll taxes, the records show.

As a non-profit organization, THE is not required to pay taxes on income from private donations, government grants or other income sources.

Another sign of THE’s financial problems surfaced last week when its web hosting company suspended the group’s website. “This site has stepped out for a bit,” a note on the only remaining page of the site says. A phone number on the page directed to the “site owner” takes callers to the billing department of the web hosting company Go Daddy.

13
May
2013

Stein Club election heats up

Martin Garcia, Gertrude Stein Democratic Club, gay news, Washington Blade, Stein Club

Martin Garcia, Stein Club’s current president, is now running for vice president. (Washington Blade file photo by Michael Key)

Gertrude Stein Democratic Club officials Martin Garcia and Angela Peoples issued a statement on Tuesday announcing the names of three people running with them on a slate for the five officer positions in the club’s Nov. 18 election.

Garcia, the club’s current president, announced last month he’s running for vice president for legislative and political affairs, a post currently held by Peoples. Peoples, in turn, announced she’s running for president.

In the statement released on Tuesday, Garcia and Peoples said Vietnamese-American “queer community organizer, advocate and poet” Diana Bui will run on their slate for the position of vice president for administration; local transgender activist Bobbi Strang, who has worked with the D.C. Trans Coalition and Gays and Lesbians Opposing Violence (GLOV), will run for secretary; and local gay activist Terrance Laney, a former special assistant for the LGBT advocacy organization National Black Justice Coalition, will run on the slate for Stein Club treasurer.

Peoples is being challenged in the race for president by veteran D.C. transgender activist and longtime Stein Club member Jeri Hughes. Bui will be running for the vice president for administration post against Jimmie Luthuli, who currently serves as the club’s secretary. Luthuli told the Blade she is backing Hughes for president.

No candidates have surfaced so far to challenge Garcia, Strang or Laney. The club members currently holding the secretary and treasurer’s positions being sought by Strange and Laney are not running for re-election.

“I could not be happier with the talent and experience represented on our slate,” Peoples said in the statement. “The club’s membership is full of diverse backgrounds and perspectives; Diana, Terrance, and Bobbi are a tribute to that diversity.”

Luthuli, a public policy analyst, said she and Hughes would bring years of experience and involvement in the LGBT community to their positions as president and vice president for administration.

“Jeri and I will be asking members of the club to support us,” she said.

06
Nov
2013

Probation for D.C. cop in trans shooting case

Metro DC Police, gay news, Washington Blade

D.C. police officer Kenneth Furr was sentenced in a case related to the firing of his gun through the windshield of a car with the five people inside. (Washington Blade photo by Phil Reese)

An off-duty D.C. police officer accused in August 2011 of firing his service revolver into a car occupied by three transgender women and two male friends was sentenced on Thursday to three years of supervised probation, a $150 fine, and 100 hours of community service.

D.C. Superior Court Judge Russell Canan also sentenced Officer Kenneth Furr, 48, to five years in prison but suspended all but 14 months of the prison term and credited Furr with the 14 months he already served between the time of his arrest and his trial last October.

Canan released Furr October 26 while awaiting sentencing after a Superior Court jury convicted him of assault with a deadly weapon and solicitation for prostitution but acquitted him on six other charges, including the most serious charge of assault with intent to kill while armed.

The latter charge was linked to his firing of five shots into the car where the transgender women and their friends were sitting.

Police and prosecutors have said the shooting occurred following a confrontation that started when Furr solicited one of the transgender women for sex for money at 5th and K Streets, N.W., and followed the woman after she rejected his offer. Furr then argued with one or more of her friends who asked Furr leave her alone.

At the time of his arrest, police said Furr’s blood alcohol level was twice that of the legal limit for drivers.

Canan rejected a request by Assistant U.S. Attorney Laura Worm, the lead prosecutor, that Furr be given the maximum sentence of 5 years in prison for the assault with a deadly weapon charge. He also denied her request for an additional three months incarceration for the solicitation conviction.

News of the shooting outraged LGBT activists as well as Mayor Vincent Gray and members of the D.C. City Council, who called for stepped up efforts to curtail violence against the city’s transgender community.

The D.C. Trans Coalition issued a statement late Thursday calling the sentence of no additional jail time for Furr “outrageous” and said it would heighten longstanding fears by the transgender community of mistreatment and abuse by police officers.

“This result is the product of a legal system that constantly devalues trans lives, particularly trans people of color,” said D.C. Trans Coalition member Jason Terry. “Officer Furr’s defense team actively sought to portray the victims as somehow deserving of this violence, and apparently they succeeded,” he said.

“If roles had been reversed and a black trans woman had gotten drunk and shot a gun at a police officer, the results would be drastically different,” Terry said.

Court observers said the jury’s decision to find Furr not guilty on the assault with intent to kill while armed charge most likely resulted from a successful effort by Furr’s attorneys to portray the shooting as an act of self-defense.

Canan said his suspension of 46 months of the 60 month (five year) prison term was contingent upon Furr’s successful completion of his three year probation period and other restrictions, including a requirement that he stay away from the five complainants.

Court records show Canan also ordered Furr to stay away from “the area bounded by: New York Avenue, Massachusetts Avenue, 7th Street, N.W. and North Capitol Street, N.W.,” which is widely known as one of the city’s transgender prostitution zones.

In addition, Canan set as a condition for the parole that Furr enter an alcohol treatment program and enroll in anger management classes.

In the sentencing memorandum on behalf of the U.S. Attorney’s office, Worm said one reason why Furr was not a good candidate for a sentence involving parole and no prison time was that he failed to immediately comply with his pre-sentencing release conditions. She noted that although he was instructed to report immediately after his release on Oct. 26 for regular alcohol testing and other conditions, he did not report for the testing until a full month after his release.

The charge of assault with a deadly weapon, on which he was convicted, stemmed from allegations by prosecutors that Furr pointed his gun at one of the transgender women’s friends outside a CVS store on the 400 block of Massachusetts Ave., N.W. at about 5 a.m. on Aug 26, 2011.

According to testimony by the victims, Furr solicited one of the trans women propositioning sex for money minutes earlier on the street at 5th and K Streets, N.W. The woman rebuffed his request and walked away, but Furr followed her to the CVS store, where one of her male friends called on Furr to leave her alone, witnesses reported.

Furr then started an argument that continued outside the store, where Furr pulled out his gun and pointed it at the women’s friend.

Although Furr did not fire the gun, prosecutors argued his action constituted an assault with a deadly weapon and persuaded the jury to convict him on that count.

During the trial the defense presented evidence, which prosecutors acknowledged was factually correct, that the trans women and their male friends responded by following Furr in their car after Furr drove away from the CVS store.

Trial testimony showed that the group followed Furr to the area of 3rd and K Street, N.W., where they observed Furr attempting to solicit another transgender woman for sex. At that point, two of the people in the car got out and confronted Furr and one or both of them assaulted Furr, witnesses testified during the trial.

Furr then returned to his car and drove away, with the trans women and their male friends following him again, witnesses testified. This prompted Furr to stop his car at First and Pierce Streets, N.W., and fire his gun at the other car, which Furr’s lawyer said was in pursuit of his, according to testimony at the trial.

One of the male friends driving the vehicle ducked to avoid being shot and unintentionally rammed the car into Furr’s car, witnesses testified.

Furr responded by climbing on the hood of the car occupied by the transgender women and their friends and fired five times through the front windshield, causing three of the occupants to suffer non-fatal gunshot wounds.

Within minutes D.C. police rushed to the scene and arrested Furr, who was found to have a blood alcohol level twice the legal limit under D.C. law.

David Knight, Furr’s lead defense attorney, appeared to have persuaded the jury that the people he shot at were the aggressors and Furr acted in self-defense, court observers said.

“He was alone, outnumbered and under attack,” the Washington Post quoted Knight saying to the jury. “He was threatened, assaulted and pursued by a car full of people who wanted to harm him.”

In her sentencing memorandum, Worm said that at no point did Furr identify himself as a police officer to the complainants nor did he call for police help if he believed he was in danger.

“To be sure, some of the complainants involved in this incident engaged in risky behavior and bad judgment,” she said in the memo.

“The government does not minimize the fact that both parties had opportunities to withdraw from this conflict, but the government’s view, as exhibited in its charging decisions, is that the defendant bore criminal responsibility for provoking and escalating the conflict, and introducing a deadly weapon into a situation that could have otherwise been resolved,” Worm wrote in the memo.

“Many of the witnesses who testified at trial were associated, in some way, with Washington, D.C.’s transgender community,” Worm said in the memo. “That community has historically suffered discrimination from a variety of sources. Moreover, the members of the transgender community bear a heightened risk that they will be victims of violent crime,” she wrote.

“This defendant was a police officer charged with protecting and serving the citizens of the District of Columbia,” she said. “Defendant Furr’s actions on the night of this offense increased the transgender community’s already significant safety concerns and their distrust of the Metropolitan Police Department.”

D.C. police spokesperson Gwendolyn Crump said Furr has been suspended without pay and that the department will follow its standard procedure for dealing with an officer convicted of a felony. Police observers have said a felony conviction, especially one associated with violence, usually results in the firing of a police officer.

11
Jan
2013

D.C. task force to release anti-bullying recommendations

Gay News, Washington Blade, Gay Bullying

Mayor Vincent Gray signs the Youth Bullying Prevention Act of 2012. (Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

Members of a D.C. mayoral task force on Thursday will unveil a series of recommendations designed to further tackle bullying in the city.

The recommendations the Youth Bullying Prevention Task Force developed with the Urban Institute and AmericaSpeaks will focus on three prevention models: ensuring anti-bullying prevention efforts reach every D.C. resident, focusing specifically on youth who are either at-risk for bullying or are more likely to become bullies and working with bullying victims and those who have victimized them.

Elliot Imse of the D.C. Office of Human Rights told the Washington Blade on Wednesday that task force members decided to approach the issue from a public health perspective.

“The city council and the mayor’s office really wanted us to make this a citywide policy that goes above and beyond responding to incidents when they happen,” he said. “So the researchers took the unique approach and realized as we talk about all the aspects of bullying and the consequences of bullying to victims; it really does come down to public health issues, mental health issues, the risk of suicide, the risk of homeless, things like that, and really decided to take a public health approach to it.”

The Bullying Prevention Act of 2012 that Gray signed into law last June requires all city agencies, educational institutions and grantees that work directly with young people to implement an anti-bullying policy by September.

It also created the Youth Bullying Prevention Task Force and charged it with developing a model policy upon which the aforementioned groups can create their own anti-bullying protocols. D.C. Public Schools, the Metropolitan Police Department, the Department of Parks and Recreation, the Sexual Minority Youth Assistance League, Metro Teen AIDS and the D.C. Trans Coalition are among the dozens of agencies and organizations with representatives on the task force.

“I can’t think of a more noble or impactful goal than to end bullying of our youth and continue to create environments where our young people learn and thrive in health and safety,” Gray said before he signed the anti-bullying measure into law.

Imse said the task force’s recommendations are part of what he described as one of the country’s most comprehensive bullying prevention efforts.

“We know bullying happens at school, of course that’s where we need to focus a lot of our energy,” he said. “But bullying happens in recreation centers, in our libraries, in our transit system and really we need to be addressing it from that level so that the government of the District is really doing everything it can to prevent bullying in the first place. These bullying incidents add up, the health effects pile on regardless of whether it’s in school or not. So what this policy does is try to address bullying in all the public spaces that the government can.”

Shawn Gaylord of the Gay, Lesbian and Straight Education Network, who sits on the task force, applauded D.C. officials for their efforts to combat bullying in the nation’s capital.

“The recommendations that will be presented tomorrow are truly groundbreaking in their reach and will help make D.C. a safer place for all young people,” he told the Blade on Wednesday. “GLSEN is proud to have been a part of this effort from the very beginning and we look forward to continuing to partner alongside Mayor Gray and the Office of Human Rights on this important initiative.”

31
Jan
2013

Trans group: D.C. hate crimes review biased toward police

Cathy Lanier, MPD, Metropolitan Police Department, gay news, Washington Blade

D.C. Police Chief Cathy Lanier

More than 1,500 pages of private email correspondence from D.C. Police Chief Cathy Lanier related to the work of the city’s Hate Crimes Review Task Force show that the Task Force may be biased in favor of the police and may not present an impartial assessment of police handling of hate crimes, according to the D.C. Trans Coalition.

In written testimony submitted on Wednesday to the D.C. Council’s Committee on the Judiciary and Public Safety, DCTC disclosed it obtained the Lanier email correspondence through a Freedom of Information Act request earlier this year.

DCTC’s testimony says much of the email correspondence is between Lanier and David Friedman, director of the Anti-Defamation League’s Washington regional office, who serves as chair of the Hate Crimes Review Task Force.

“Our concern is that the ADL-led task force is a publicity stunt rather than a good-faith effort at making progress,” the DCTC statement says.

Lanier and Friedman dispute the DCTC’s assessment, saying they expect the task force to provide an independent review of the department’s response to anti-LGBT hate crimes and to make recommendations on how the response can be improved.

“It is a shame that the D.C. Trans Coalition is attacking the work of this group before they even issue their report and recommendations,” Lanier told the Washington Blade in a statement.

Lanier’s office announced last June that she enlisted the ADL, a nationally recognized group that fights prejudice and discrimination, to help the department assess how it investigates and reports hate crimes. The announcement came at a time when LGBT activists raised concerns over the police handling of hate crimes targeting the LGBT community, especially the transgender community.

The police announcement said that at ADL’s invitation, the Human Rights Campaign, the National Center for Transgender Equality, the Leadership Conference on Civil Rights, and two university professors considered experts on hate violence agreed to join ADL as members of the task force.

DCTC says in its testimony submitted to the D.C. Council that the email correspondence between Lanier and Friedman suggests a bias exists that the task force may not be impartial.

“We received the [FOIA] results last month, five month late, only to discover evidence that the independent review isn’t really independent at all,” DCTC says in its testimony.

Freedman “appears to be a close personal friend of Chief Lanier,” the testimony says. “Further, Lanier personally approved the membership of the review task force,” a development DCTC says raises questions about its ability to make an impartial assessment of the police department’s handling of hate crimes targeting the LGBT community.

The DCTC testimony says the group learned last week at a private task force meeting held at offices of Casa Ruby, a D.C. LGBT community center with an outreach to the Latino community, that the task force will submit its findings to Chief Lanier to give her a chance to respond.

DCTC member Jason Terry told the Blade on Wednesday that a task force representative told activists attending the Casa Ruby meeting that it would be up to Lanier to decide when or if the report should be released to the public and the community.

One of the email exchanges DCTC included in its testimony, which is dated Nov. 3, 2011, shows Friedman mentioning in a lighthearted way that Lanier’s high performance ratings in a public opinion poll of 80 percent may be equivalent to a “B” on a report card.

“Actually the last Clarus poll was 84 percent. Am I slipping?” Lanier said in her response.

“Wouldn’t worry,” Friedman said in his response. “The only people who don’t like you have outstanding warrants.”

Replied Lanier: “That David is one of the many reasons I love you…So quick.”

In a phone interview on Wednesday afternoon, Friedman told the Blade his remark about outstanding warrants was a joke. He also noted that his Nov. 3 email exchange with Lanier that DCTC quoted took place at least a month before Lanier informed him of her plans for the task force and asked him to create it.

“Yes, I am lucky to call David a friend, as are many law enforcement leaders in the country,” Lanier said in her statement to the Blade. “He is a highly respected professional dedicated to making communities throughout the country safe from crime motivated by hate.”

LGBT activists who know Friedman have said he and the ADL’s D.C. regional office have been strong and outspoken advocates for LGBT rights for many years.

“We’re very proud of that,” Friedman said. “We’re proud of our leadership on hate crimes on the local and national level. And I hope that people will feel when this process is done that the task force contributed significantly to protecting the LGBT community from hate crimes and to strengthening the relationship between the LGBT community and the MPD.”

One task force member, who spoke on condition of not being identified, said the DCTC appears to have made a “premature judgment” in assessing whether the task force is biased or whether the outcome of the task force’s work would be biased.

HRC spokesperson Paul Guequierre said in a statement that ADL asked HRC to join the task force because of HRC’s “extensive work on hate crimes prevention legislation at both the state and federal levels.” He said HRC saw its participation in the task force as an opportunity to make sure “there was a fair process” in assessing the police handling of hate crimes in D.C.

“HRC is committed to ensuring that law enforcement respond swiftly and appropriately to incidents of bias crimes without further victimizing the LGBT community,” he said.

Friedman acknowledged that it was he who told people attending the task force community meeting at Casa Ruby’s that the task force’s findings and recommendations would be delivered to Lanier.

“What I said at that meeting was that the chief asked us to review the MPD handling of hate crimes and its relationship with the LGBT community was to be reviewed,” he said. “So obviously we’re going to give her first the report and our findings. She asked for this. And I have every reason to expect – I think all of us would want – these findings to be made public.”

27
Feb
2013

D.C. police clarify ‘condom’ policy

condoms, gay news, safe sex, Washington Blade

(Photo by Inga via Wikimedia Commons)

D.C. police officials have taken steps to inform officers and the community that possession of large quantities condoms is not grounds for stopping and searching someone on suspicion of engaging in prostitution.

An official police department clarification of its “condom” policy came in response to concerns raised by a coalition of LGBT, AIDS and human rights groups that individual officers were threatening to arrest people, including transgender women, on prostitution-related charges if they were found to have more than three condoms in their possession.

“The MPD supports the distribution of condoms to help prevent the spread of HIV and other sexually transmitted diseases,” says a card bearing the police department logo that the department is now distributing in the community.

“Individuals are allowed to carry as many condoms as they want,” the card says. “There is no ‘three condom rule.’ MPD officers cannot conduct a stop and search of a person or premises based on whether or not that person possesses condoms.”

The coalition that called on the department to make the clarification includes The Women’s Collective, Helping Individual Prostitutes Survive (HIPS), D.C. Appleseed, D.C. Trans Coalition, AIDS United and Human Rights Watch.

“Last July, Human Rights Watch released research that documented instances of police confiscating condoms or threatening to use safe sex materials as evidence of criminal activity, primarily prostitution,” the coalition said in a statement. “By distributing these cards, MPD clarifies that the police support public health interventions and will not interfere with condom possession and distribution,” the statement says.

13
Mar
2013