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|Atlanta police to name second LGBT liaison|
|Written by Dyana Bagby|
|Friday, 03 September 2010 00:00|
The Atlanta Police Department will soon name a second LGBT liaison, the department announced Aug. 31, after previously insisting that APD already had two LGBT liaisons.
In the release, which also announces the members of the new nine-member LGBT advisory board, Mayor Kasim Reed “pledged to have the Atlanta Police Department appoint a second GLBT liaison.” Having two LGBT liaisons on the APD was a campaign promise he made last year while running for mayor.
However, what is not said in the release is what will happen to Dani Lee Harris, the former LGBT liaison who went on medical leave in April after she said suffered gran mal seizures.
Harris has not returned to the department, although when APD appointed Officer Patricia Powell as an LGBT liaison in May, Powell was portrayed as the “second” liaison who fulfilled Reed’s promise.
Harris also filed a complaint against a civilian employee of the APD with the department’s Office of Professional Standards. Harris told Georgia Voice she feels she has not been allowed to return to her job because she is being retaliated against by her superiors. Harris said they believe she contributed to the controversy that surrounded the Atlanta Eagle raid nearly a year ago and also because of the official complaint she filed with OPS.
Chief George Turner told the Georgia Voice in an interview that there was no promise Harris would return to her post as LGBT liaison.
Questions to the APD about the status of Harris — including whether she remains on medical leave or if she is on administrative leave, and if she is being paid — have not been answered.
Harris said she is currently on administrative leave but is not being paid. She has also said that she believes she is fit to return to work but because she cannot drive due to past seizures the APD is not letting her return.
“It’s harassment,” Harris said. “I have my gun and badge but I’m still not allowed to return to work. I’ve never been a conspiracy theorist, but this definitely makes me wonder.
“This is all retaliation about the Eagle raid and the complaint I filed,” Harris said. “This doesn’t make sense. I’m not sure what’s going on. It’s heartbreaking.”
APD spokesperson Carlos Campos said Tuesday in a statement the department and mayor are working “expeditiously to ensure there are two active GLBT liaisons working with the community for the Atlanta Police Department — pledges made by both Mayor Reed and Chief Turner.
“Chief Turner has said many times that officers are subject to assignment changes at any time and that there is no permanent job post within the Atlanta Police Department — no matter the position. Officer Harris remains on leave from the department, and any further comment on her employment status would be inappropriate.”
LGBT advisory board named
The Atlanta Police Department also announced Aug. 31 the nine members of its new lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender advisory panel.
Those on the panel are no strangers to LGBT activism in the city. They include Ebonee Bradford Barnes, board member of Atlanta’s In the Life, organizer for Black Gay Pride, the Human Rights Campaign and business owner; Betty Couvertier, longtime activist and host and producer of queer radio show “Alternative Perspectives” on WRFG 89.3 FM; and AID Atlanta Executive Director Tracy L. Elliot.
The panel also includes Glen Paul Freedman, executive assistant to Lisa M. Borders, president of the Grady Health Foundation as well as past board member of Atlanta Pride; transgender activist Tracee McDaniel, founder of the Juxtaposed Center for Transformation; Terence McPhaul, executive director of YouthPride; Joshua Noblitt, pastor at St. Mark United Methodist Church; Philip Rafshoon, owner of Outwrite Bookstore & Coffeehouse; and Molly Simmons, Emory Law School graduate and former DeKalb County Police officer.
“One of my priorities on becoming chief was to repair the relationships and build the trust we had lost in various communities over the years,” said Atlanta Police Chief George Turner in a statement. “We recognize the importance of the GLBT community all over Atlanta, and want to make sure we are listening to their concerns. We hope they can help us become a smarter department, and together work to create a safer city for all.”
Officer Patricia Powell, the APD’s current LGBT liaison, said the board was selected to represent a cross-section of the community. The selection process began in July and dozens of nominations were submitted, according to the APD press release.
“I’m proud of the group we’ve put together,” Powell said in a statement. “The response from the community to serve on this board has been overwhelming. I heard from many conscientious, bright and accomplished Atlantans wanting to give their time. It wasn’t easy making these selections, but I believe we have a group that will take their positions seriously, and work diligently and earnestly with the APD.”
Mayor Reed was also pleased with the appointments.
“Atlanta has a vibrant, caring and active GLBT community — and I have pledged to make sure that our Police Department is well-trained to respect their unique needs,” he said in a statement. “I firmly believe this is a step in the right direction — but by no means is it the end of our work. It is just the beginning.”
The LGBT advisory board will have its first meeting Sept. 20 to elect a chair and vice-chair and discuss objectives for the board. All meetings will be open to the public.
Top photo: The Atlanta Police Department’s announcement that a ‘second’ LGBT liaison will soon be named raises questions about the status of Officer Dani Lee Harris, who served in the role until taking leave in April. (courtesy ProjectQAtlanta.com)
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