- The Washington Times - Friday, June 22, 2007

Metropolitan Police Department officials said yesterday that they will not close the Latino Liaison Unit as part of a departmentwide restructuring plan.

Hispanic leaders became concerned last week about reports that Chief Cathy L. Lanier planned to close the 11-member unit.

“We’re here united with our Latino community — as representatives of the heart of our Latino community in the District of Columbia — saying that, if anything, we need to expand on what we do have,” said Ted Loza, chief of staff for D.C. Councilman Jim Graham, Ward 1 Democrat. “We want an expansion, not an elimination.”

The District’s largest concentration of Hispanics is in Ward 1, which includes the Northwest neighborhoods of Adams Morgan, Columbia Heights and Mount Pleasant. Mr. Graham called a press conference yesterday morning outside the unit’s headquarters at 18th Street and Columbia Road Northwest, but he did not attend.

Mr. Loza said the rumors started with press reports that officers from the unit would be “redeployed,” along with officers from specialized units for Asians, homosexuals, and the deaf and hard of hearing.

“We need to bring some sort of clarity to this issue,” he said. “There’s much confusion around whether or not the Latino Liaison Unit sitting here behind us is going to be dismantled.”

Assistant Police Chief Peter J. Newsham, who attended the press conference but did not address the crowd of about 30 community members and reporters, said the unit will not close.

“The chief has a vision of expanding it to the entire city — to segments of the Latino population that are not getting appropriate service,” Chief Newsham said. “The police department made a mistake in the way it disseminated information.”

The unit was founded in May 2002, 11 years after riots erupted in Mount Pleasant when a Salvadoran man was shot by a rookie police officer.

Chief Lanier met Wednesday with members of the homosexual and transgender community. Mr. Loza said Hispanic leaders plan to meet with her in the next two weeks.

Peter Rosenstein, a homosexual community activist, said he appreciated the meeting and supports the chief’s vision for expansion.

“What we see here today is the passion of a community to defend what’s working,” he said. “We are talking about community policing.

“We look forward to working with the department … to make the expansion of these units a reality that we can all support.”

The police department has about 3,850 officers and plans to meet its authorized quota of 3,900 by the end of this fiscal year on Sept. 30, Chief Newsham said.

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