Halstead cites Rainbow Lounge raid at 1st meeting of new Multicultural Agency — made up of subgroups from city’s minority communities
LOGAN CARVER | Contributing Writer
FORT WORTH — A group of civilians is shaping the future of LGBT education within the Fort Worth Police Department.
Inside a small police academy classroom at the department’s training center, LGBT “citizen peers” from varied personal and professional backgrounds will spend the next several months developing the curriculum for future academy classes.
“This is groundbreaking,” said Detective Marc Povera, one of two LGBT group facilitators. “This has not been done anywhere around the country.”
The LGBT group is one of a half dozen break-out groups from the department’s Multicultural Committee.
Each group, comprising citizen volunteers, will meet separately to develop training materials, which will be used to educate new officers about the culture and customs specific to the respective groups.
Essentially the groups are letting officers know how they want to be treated and what officers can expect to encounter.
The goal, per the committee’s mission statement, is “to build a foundation of excellent service through ethical behavior based on mutual respect, education and understanding of our multicultural communities.”
The process is expected to last up to six months but it’s up to the citizen peers how long it takes, Povera said.
Each group has two department facilitators who will help steer the meetings and will be able to convey to the rest of the department the information derived from the break-out groups.
Neither Povera nor Detective John Bayer is gay.
Department command staff strategically chose facilitators who were not members of the target group.
“If you were part of that group, you really wouldn’t be able to relay that to folks because I think it may be a bit of a credibility issue,” Povera said.
The LGBT group is diverse in its composition. Volunteers include a retired English teacher, a city councilman and a church administrator.
Charlotte Sobel, a retired architect, has served in a similar role before. She was part of the city manager’s task force in the wake of the raid at the Rainbow Lounge.
She helped develop the LGBT curriculum out of that focus group and trained more than 5,000 police officers and city employees.
Sobel said she hopes the multicultural group can integrate some of that curriculum into the new academy training program.
She looks forward to working with the other members of the group.
“This is my adopted city, so it was a way for me to give back,” Sobel said.
Fort Worth Police Chief Jeffrey Halstead spoke at a reception before the groups began their introductory meeting.
He said he has been waiting almost 24 years to see a program like the Multicultural Committee come to fruition.
Halstead said it was important for the community to gather around a table preemptively because eventually there will be a struggle that requires the police department to sit down with the same people.
The chief nodded to members of the LGBT group as he referenced the Rainbow raid that brought the department and the gay community to the table three years ago.
“What hit home was the hurt we all felt in 2009,” Halstead told the room of officers and volunteers. “If you want a successful program, the community has to be involved.”
Officer Sharron Neal summarized the committee’s goal.
“We will not be satisfied until our department mirrors the city of Fort Worth,” she said.
This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition November 23, 2012.