Leaders of D.C. lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender groups say there is an "obvious disconnect" between the Metropolitan Police Department's public condemnation of hate crimes and actual concern on the beat.
They told the council's Committee on Public Safety and the Judiciary on Wednesday there is a feeling of isolation from MPD efforts to combat crimes motivated by bias.
The sentiment is especially strong among transgendered residents, who are "assumed to be prostitutes" by some officers, according to Jason Terry, an organizer of the D.C. Trans Coalition.
Other witnesses from the LGBT groups said reports are dissuaded or handled improperly, or the victim is labeled the aggressor after a bias-related scuffle.
"Empty promises in some areas - and complete lack of action in others - are unconstructive in solving the problem at best, and are sacrificing the safety of D.C. residents at worst," said A.J. Singletary, a member of Gays and Lesbians Opposing Violence.
Council member Phil Mendelson, at-large Democrat, called the hearing to explore whether the department has been effective in its response to hate crimes. It was the committee's third hearing on the subject, and its first since November 2009.
Crimes relating to sexual orientation or gender identity jumped from 35 in 2009 to 45 in 2010, according to the MPD's 2010 annual report on bias-related crimes.
MPD Chief Cathy L. Lanier said she was "shocked" and "hurt" by complaints from the LGBT community, noting she regularly attends community meetings and has met personally with residents affected by bias crimes.
At the chairman's suggestion, Chief Lanier committed to meeting with stakeholders in the LGBT community multiple times over the next few months.
The 2010 report showed incidents of all bias crimes increased 66 percent from 2009 to 2010. There has been a 36 percent increase in the first six months of this year compared with the same period in 2010.
"There are unfortunately a number of reasons why people commit crimes based on hate," Mr. Mendelson said.
Most notably, race-related crimes spiked from two in 2009 to 14 in 2010.
Chief Lanier said racial crimes were particularly targeted at Hispanics and whites, and may be a result of friction caused by gentrification and new residents moving into established neighborhoods.
Mr. Mendelson said MPD's efforts may have prompted the spike in numbers, because more incidents are reported.
"That has to account for some it," Chief Lanier said. "How much of it, I don't know. I don't know that you'll ever be able to answer that."
She said some of the disappointment from LGBT groups might stem from the decentralization of a police department gay and lesbian liaison unit that had garnered praise. She said MPD has actually broadened its efforts citywide, training 124 "affiliate officers" in "diverse communities, their particular issues, and how best to serve them."
Mr. Mendelson noted there is no good data on what happens after an arrest and charge for a hate crime; specifically, whether the defendant is convicted.
"I think that would be helpful," Mr. Mendelson said.
In other testimony, D.C. police union leader Kristopher Baumann said the MPD has been ineffective in combating bias crimes and "homophobia" within its own ranks.
Mr. Baumann, who is frequently critical of MPD leadership, also used the opportunity to also take on Mr. Mendelson, saying he has "blindly supported this administration at every turn" at the expense of rank-and-file officers.
Mr. Mendelson said he stands by previous comments on the subject, noting there appears to be a commitment from Chief Lanier to fight bias crimes, but inconsistencies on the street.
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