More hate crimes against gay, lesbian D.C. residents reported
(TBD, AP) - Advocates for gay and lesbian D.C. residents say police needs to be more responsive to reports of bias and hate crimes.
A.J. Singletary, chair of Gays and Lesbians Opposing Violence, told a D.C. Council committee on Wednesday that reports of crimes against the gay and lesbian community increased in the first quarter this year over 2010.
As many as seven in 10 victims of hate crimes in the District are members of the gay, lesbian and transgender community.
Last January near U Street, Singletary became a victim himself.
“When I was being beaten on the ground and being called f----t, it wasn’t I'm just being targeted… randomly, it was, this is who I am and I'm being targeted because of my identity,” Singleton said.
Police contend the increase is due to increased reporting and say their outreach programs are encouraging victims to come forward. Singletary said it's not clear whether it’s that or there are actually more crimes.
Advocates also say police aren't documenting hate crimes effectively.
Police Chief Cathy Lanier says the department has taken several steps, including training, to improve responsiveness. Lanier insisted the department's gay-lesbian liaison unit is larger than ever and that she is committed to the gay community and their crime concerns.
“I’ve been in meetings with in the past month, not because I was invited but because I just showed up to be a part of the discussion,” Lanier said.
Critics point to problems within the MPD itself.
"We've had homophobic graffiti scrawled in a restroom on someone's locker, we've had materials handed out, we've had two officers outed as part of an internal investigation where they were not the targets -- not the suspects,” said Kristopher Baumann of the Fraternal Order of Police.
Council member Phil Mendelson, who chairs the public safety committee, called for Wednesday's hearing to determine whether police are responding appropriately to hate crimes. He lauds the efforts of police leadership but adds that there's room for improvement.
“I think at the senior level there's a sincere attempt to attack and reduce biased crime, but when it gets down to the front lines there are some officers who aren’t doing it right,” he said.
At Mendelson's urging the police chief agreed to meet more frequently with some of the concerned groups. It's unclear if the issues discussed today will ultimately result in any official changes in how the gay community and the MPD tackle concerns.
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