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Wednesday, October 7, 2009

APD and LGBT leadership go to church to discuss Eagle raid

A horde of gays, police officers and politicians went to church Monday night to talk about a gay leather bar and God spared them all.

click to enlarge Atlanta Eagle raid protest in front of City Hall, Sept. 19.
  • Atlanta Eagle raid protest in front of City Hall, Sept. 19.

Roughly 100 were in attendance at Virginia-Highland Church for the APD-LGBT forum organized by openly gay mayoral candidate Kyle Keyser and the APD's LGBT liaison Dani Lee Harris with help from openly gay candidate for Atlanta City Council Post 1-At Large Adam Brackman.  If you take away all the cops, political candidates, forum organizers and media though it was closer to 50 concerned citizens.

The forum was mostly a conversation between the panelists, which numbered eight police officers (including Deputy Police Chief Carlos Banda) and four representatives from the LGBT community.  In fact, by the time the first audience member's question was taken there were just 15 minutes remaining. After Banda made a comment about investigating every complaint, eight hands shot up simultaneously.

The majority of the discussion centered on the presence of the APD's much-maligned Red Dog Unit, with Banda and other APD personnel frequently jumping in to defend the employment of the unit in the Eagle raid. Banda did have strong words for any officer who acted inappropriately, saying, "We don’t want people like that in our police department.  That is a firing offense, when somebody is discriminating against other people, whether they black, white, pink, purple, gay, straight, Hindu, Catholic — it doesn’t matter."

Though Banda has made it clear what could happen to  officers who allegedly made homophobic and racial slurs and used excessive force during the raid, the results of the investigation won't be unveiled for months.

The rest of the forum dealt mostly with the issue of sensitivity training for the police force, although not all the attendants were particularly satisfied with that topic. I overheard one older women remark to another as they walked out: "Sensitivity training? What a bunch of bullshit."

But the APD did deserve credit for showing up, not only to provide panelists for the forum but to bring along another 15 or so officers to answer anyone's questions afterward. Banda said that forums like this with the LGBT community used to be a quarterly affair but stopped at some point; he said they needed to start up again.

But the next step will be the outcome of the investigation — or "the investigation into the investigation," as Banda put it — and the nature of the punishment if the allegations prove true.

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