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Volume 34
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DC Police Gay & Lesbian Liaison Unit wins award
DC Police Gay & Lesbian Liaison Unit wins award
Harvard's Ash Institute for Democratic Governance and Innovation bestows $100,000 prize

WASHINGTON, DC - For reaching out to an underserved community and creating a model for community policing, the District of Columbia's Metropolitan Police Department's Gay and Lesbian Liaison Unit has won an Innovations in American Government Award. The Award, which carries a prize of $100,000, is sponsored by the Ash Institute for Democratic Governance and Innovation at Harvard University's Kennedy School of Government and is administered in partnership with the Council for Excellence in Government.

To some, a mere two hate crimes a year in a major city like D.C. sounds like good news. But in 1998, Charles Ramsey, just taking over as chief of the Metropolitan Police Department, saw this number as improbably low. Ramsey suspected it was sign of under-reporting, since neighboring Maryland and Virginia had 282 and 160 hate crimes, respectively, reported that same year, and the majority of hate crimes in the District are against members of the city's vast Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual and Transgendered (GLBT) communities. In June of 2000, the Gay and Lesbian Liaison Unit (GLLU) was created with the goal of forging a cooperative relationship that would better protect the estimated 10 percent of the city's 575,000 residential population and even more daily workers and tourists.

Cooperation and teamwork across departmental, jurisdictional, and geographic boundaries are the hallmarks of this unit and the reason for its success. Unlike most police community liaison units, this one actually performs a law enforcement function, and regularly works with other police units to deal with crimes committed by and against the GLBT communities: every act of police work is an opportunity for outreach to citizens and to other officers.

In another innovation, GLBT and allied volunteers help guide and operate the unit, educating officers about the culture of the community and its needs, and freeing up department personnel for other work.

The unit benefits not only the target communities, but the entire department itself, attracting officers from within the D.C. department as well as nearby jurisdictions because of its positive reputation. For example, the unit's closure rate on homicide investigations in which they provide support is over 85 percent, compared with roughly 70 percent nationwide, and even less in comparable metropolitan areas. The GLLU has been approached by departments from Missoula to Atlanta to Australia for advice because it's the model for community policing.

The D.C. Metropolitan Police Department's Gay and Lesbian Liaison Unit is one of seven programs receiving this year's Innovations in American Government Awards - a $100,000 prize supporting dissemination of the program to other jurisdictions. The Awards honor city, county, state, tribal and federal government initiatives that are truly creative, measurably effective, meet a significant need, and have the potential to be transferred to other jurisdictions.

More information on the Innovations in American Government program and this year's winners is at http://www.ashinstitute.harvard.edu or http://www.excelgov.org.



An Ash Institute for Democratic Governance and Innovation press release

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