Don’t expect law enforcement agencies involved in Rainbow Lounge incident to police themselves
It’s not exactly clear how the Fort Worth Police Department and the Texas Alcoholic Beverage Commission will wiggle out of the public relations stranglehold the LGBT community now has on the two agencies, but I know from years of watching these dramas unfold that they will unless there is an independent investigation.
The local police officers and the state agents who descended on the Rainbow Lounge on Sunday morning, June 28, about 1 a.m. — arresting some patrons for public intoxication and apparently seriously injuring one — will all watch each other’s backs.
The official police reports that the law enforcement officials filed following the raid — which ironically occurred on the 40th anniversary of the Stonewall Rebellion and the birth of the gay rights movement in New York City in 1969 — already hold the arresting officers and agents harmless.
The officers and agents claim in the reports that they encountered belligerent drunks in the one-week-old nightclub who threatened them in a sexually suggestive manner. That’s possibly the most preposterous part of the official version of the incident.
Anyone who has ever been in a nightclub when a uniformed officer shows up, particularly at 1 a.m., knows that everyone tends to get real subdued.
What’s more, FWPD and TABC officials claim the raid was actually a routine inspection, and that they were unaware what they were doing coincided with the anniversary of Stonewall. They just happened to show up with plastic handcuffs and a paddy wagon at their disposal.
It’s not unreasonable to suspect that the officers and agents were aware June is gay Pride month, and that there might be a lot of celebrating going on. The truth is law enforcement officers know all about our community.
Undercover police vice officers and state agents frequent our nightclubs, our chat rooms and anywhere else they can go to learn more about us. It’s called intelligence work, and they do a good job of it.
They know us almost as well as we know ourselves, and they share the information.
The internal affairs investigation that Fort Worth Police Chief Jeffrey Halstead promised will take a long, long time, as will TABC’s review of what happened. You can expect many weeks or even months to pass before a conclusion is reached.
During the process, the investigators will decline to answer any questions from the media. It will all be very "confidential." In other words, they will be operating in total secrecy.
They will interview any witnesses who come forward, but unless someone has a video that reveals exactly what the law enforcement officers said and did, don’t expect much to come from it. It doesn’t matter how many people you have contradicting the word of a law enforcement officer — it just doesn’t count.
Halstead told reporters he was interested in hearing what any witnesses to the raid had to say, but he refused reporters’ requests to answer any questions that pertained to anything that was not in the police reports.
Halstead spent an entire day ducking questions from reporters about the nightclub raid before he finally called a press conference just minutes before the appointed time of 5:30 p.m., which left TV reporters little time to prepare anything for the 6 p.m. news.
For now, local police officials must appease two members of the Fort Worth City Council who are demanding an investigation — gay Councilman Joel Burns and Mayor Pro Tem Kathleen Hicks, who is African-American and friendly to the LGBT community. And the media coverage of the raid spreading nationwide has forced TABC conduct its own investigation.
Burns has already advised members of the LGBT community that TABC will soon be issuing a statement that acknowledges the young man who was injured in the raid was arrested by state agents and was not in direct contact with local police officers.
In the end, Chad Gibson, the 26-year-old man who is in the hospital suffering from a cranial injury, will never get an apology from the law enforcement agencies or even reimbursement for his medical expenses. State law indemnifies police officers and other government employees who are involved in public safety duties unless it can be shown that they were involved in gross misconduct.
And you can bet your sweet patootie that’s not going to be the outcome of the FWPD’s internal affairs investigation or TABC’s review.
And that’s why there needs to be an independent investigation of this incident — one that will be objective and give the LGBT community confidence in the outcome.
David Webb is a former Dallas Voice staff writer. His blog is at
TheRareReporter.blogspot.com, and his e-mail is email@example.com.