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|Atlanta police launch LGBT advisory board|
|Written by Dyana Bagby|
|Friday, 01 October 2010 00:00|
Questions about the controversial Atlanta Eagle raid, the status of former LGBT liaison Dani Lee Harris, the appointment of a new liaison, as well as how to rebuild trust between the LGBT community and the Atlanta Police Department were topics at the inaugural meeting of the Atlanta Police Department’s newly formed GLBT advisory board.
The nine-member board met Sept. 20 at Saint Mark United Methodist Church. Chief George Turner addressed the board briefly.
“We really do endeavor to do this better. To build our relationships, to be educated,” Turner said.
Glen Paul Freedman, a veteran LGBT activist and executive assistant to Lisa M. Borders, president of the Grady Health Foundation, was elected chair of the board. Terence McPhaul, executive director of YouthPride, was elected vice chair.
“We need to have clarity and transparency from the APD … If we are to establish trust between the community and the APD there has to be dialogue,” said board member Betty Couvertier, a longtime activist who hosts the LGBT radio show “Alternative Perspectives” on WRFG 89.3 FM.
Philip Rafshoon, owner of Outwrite Bookstore & Coffeehouse who also served on the committee to select nominees for the new police chief, noted that there hasn’t been much communication between the APD and LGBT community at large for many years.
“I think the Eagle raid shone the spotlight on what’s happening,” he said. “There are still issues concerning the Eagle raid and I think we need to make sure the police department is prompt in investigating this and it is cleared up… and the community is certain the APD is being honest, transparent and responsive to the community’s concerns,” he said.
Second LGBT liaison
The promise of a second liaison — a campaign pledge Mayor Kasim Reed made when running for office — has been stated for weeks by APD and police officials.
When Reed announced the formation of a new GLBT advisory board on Aug. 31, he also announced that a second LGBT liaison would be announced soon. Chief Turner also told Georgia Voice in an interview in July that there was no guarantee Dani Lee Harris, who served in the job for about five years and has been on leave since April, would return to duty as the LGBT liaison.
Harris said the department first put her on medical leave because of her gran mal seizures suffered months ago. Harris said she is on administrative leave and contends she is capable of coming back to work but her superiors are not allowing her to return.
The APD has stated it would be inappropriate to discuss Harris’ employment status.
Harris said Major Erika Shields, chief of staff to the Chief of Police, and the Personnel Department were not allowing her to return to work. The Personnel Department falls under the supervision of Major Debra Williams, the Corporate Services Section Commander.
Major Williams is one of the numerous defendants in a federal civil lawsuit against the APD for the controversial Atlanta Eagle raid last year and is being sued because she “had ultimate supervisory authority over the Red Dog Unit.”
The Red Dog Unit, a paramilitary narcotics squad of the APD, is accused in the lawsuit of using rough treatment against the patrons and employees in the bar that night, including anti-gay slurs and forcibly keeping patrons on the floor.
“I’m not eligible for unemployment because [the APD] says I’m on medical leave. I’m not out on medical leave or out because I’ve done something wrong — I’m just out,” Harris said.
Harris also said when she filed a complaint with the Office of Professional Standards against a civilian employee with the department in April, she was then put on medical leave. The complaint includes allegations of sexual discrimination and defamatory language, as stated during a review of a recent Atlanta Citizens Review Board meeting.
Top photo: Atlanta Police Chief George Turner addresses the newly formed police advisory board on Sept. 20. (by Dyana Bagby)
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