As hate crimes gain attention, advocates call for more police training

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Photo - D.C. Police Chief Cathy Lanier says her officers have received some training on hate crimes, but advocates say more sensitivity training is necessary. (Examiner file photo)
D.C. Police Chief Cathy Lanier says her officers have received some training on hate crimes, but advocates say more sensitivity training is necessary. (Examiner file photo)
Local,DC,Liz Farmer

The District's police have improved in their handling of hate crimes targeting homosexuals and transgenders, but the city still lacks an adequate system of sensitivity training for police officers, advocates say.

"It's just not institutionalized," said Jason Terry, a member of the DC Trans Coalition told The Washington Examiner after a council Judiciary Committee hearing on hate crimes last week. "There's no [funding], there's no schedule," Terry said.

The plea comes as the number of recorded hate crimes in the District -- especially those targeting sexual orientation -- is rising. Last year, 91 incidents were classified as a hate crime, compared with 68 in 2010. Of those crimes, 45 in 2010 targeted sexual orientation or gender identity. That number increased to 53 crimes in 2011.

D.C. police charged three people in a hate-crime incident that occurred outside the Howard Theatre Tuesday night -- just days before council members heard testimony from the Metropolitan Police Department on how its officers deal with hate crimes.
Ali Jackson, Alyonica Jackson and Desmond Campbell were charged with assault with a dangerous weapon after, police said, they approached a 16-year-old boy outside the theater and directed homophobic slurs at him at around 8:40 p.m. Tuesday.
Alyonica Jackson and Campbell then held the boy down while Ali Jackson stabbed him in his left arm, left leg and lower back, police said. The three fled when the boy sprayed them with pepper spray, but police caught up to them shortly after and arrested them.
Police said that Alyonica Jackson and Campbell continued to make derogatory statements about the boy after their arrest, and police eventually charged all three with hate crime enhancement.
Ward 1 Councilman Jim Graham said Friday he was pleased with the MPD's swift response.
"MPD immediately designated this a hate crime. There was no hesitation," he said. "I think that sends a very important message to the neighborhoods and to the people that we will not be tolerating this." --Aubrey Whelan

Terry, along with a handful of volunteers from other related organizations, have taken 237 of the city's roughly 3,800 police officers through sensitivity training on gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender issues over the last year and a half.

"There's no way we can issue this model broadly across the force," Terry said.

Community groups help with in-person training as a part of the Metropolitan Police Department's restructuring of its Gay and Lesbian Liaison Unit.

Although most of the department still hasn't received training from the community groups, Police Chief Cathy Lanier noted in her testimony that most officers have received some type of internal training exercise related to hate crimes.

Still, Terry and other advocates stress the workshops are more valuable because it allows for police and trainers to interact and they say that model should be a formalized part of training for all officers. They noted they are not asking to be granted a city contract, but that the department should create a permanent model.

"We want to make sure there is professional training available so that over time, it persists," said A. J. Singletary, chairman of the LGBT anti-violence task force GLOV.

lfarmer@washingtonexaminer.com

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Liz Farmer

Examiner Staff Writer
The Washington Examiner