Criticism Continues: Lack of input leaves LGBT activists feeling like "an afterthought" in police liaison unit training

Post date: Sep 15, 2010 1:50:35 AM

by Yusef Najafi; MetroWeekly; Published on December 2, 2009 <Original Article>

Chris Farris of Gays and Lesbians Opposing Violence (GLOV) feels like an afterthought.

He was given only three days to prepare to speak at a training seminar for a group of about 60 Metropolitan Police Department (MPD) officers training in services offered for the MPD’s Special Liaison Units (SLU), which includes the city’s Gay and Lesbian Liaison Unit (GLLU).

“Community members want to be involved, but we don’t want to be an afterthought,” Farris says. “Here, we were definitely an afterthought.”

It was about a month ago when Farris and other community members attempted to help prepare the curriculum for the training by offering input and suggestions during a meeting called for by Mayor Adrian M. Fenty’s liaison to the LGBT community, Christopher Dyer.

But their input was apparently not used, and MPD Chief Cathy Lanier set a five-day training -- increased from an originally announced 32 hours to 40 -- which began Nov. 30.

“We’ve had no input into the curriculum, no review of the curriculum, no explanation about what the curriculum was going to cover, nothing like that.”

While Farris says he is disappointed in the MPD’s failure to “seek adequate input” from LGBT community members, and Lanier for paying “an enormous amount of lip service to the community with basically zero follow up,” it’s not going to stop him from speaking to the officers taking the SLU training at the Metropolitan Police Academy.

“I don’t want anyone to mistake my participation as an endorsement of the training, because it’s simply not,” he says of his involvement. “I’m doing it because it’s all we’ve been offered and … I can do my best to help impress upon these new GLLU officers the importance of their work and the strong desire that GLOV and other community groups have in forming a partnership with them. It’s my only chance.”

Amy Loudermilk and David Phillips, both of Rainbow Response, took the same chance, but with only one day to prepare. They spoke to officers in the SLU training about the important role that the GLLU has played in dealing with intimate-partner violence (IPV).

“I almost don’t even know where to begin,” Loudermilk says when asked about her concerns with the current curriculum.

“I can tell you that there were factual errors in the domestic-violence training,” she says, referring to an hour-long Power Point presentation that preceded Loudermilk and Phillips's speech and left out “domestic partners” in the categories of people who are often victims of domestic violence, "which is really relevant if you’re training GLLU officers. Therefore it was inaccurate.”

Phillips says he is concerned that officers will not be prepared to handle upcoming events that draw a large LGBT crowd to Washington, including the Mid-Atlantic Leather Weekend in January, and the 2012 AIDS Conference, which he says will draw about 30,000 people. And while he’s optimistic that the MPD will continue to use community resources such as Rainbow Response for information, his thoughts on the training have not changed.

“It was hastily thrown together and there was no review by outside subject experts.”

Kevin Palmer, from the MPD's Public Information Office, said Assistant Chief Diane Groomes would be available to comment on the training, only after its initial run, which concludes with field study on Dec. 4. No further information or training materials were available from the MPD.