Police Chief Halstead scheduled to update City Council on status of department’s ongoing internal investigation at Tuesday meeting
With more than 30 citizen eyewitnesses and 10 law enforcement officers present, it comes as no surprise that there would be conflicting stories about what took place inside the Rainbow Lounge in the early morning hours of June 28.
Indeed, the discrepancies have already been evident, with police claiming Rainbow Lounge patrons made sexual advances toward them — including one by Chad Gibson that led to him sustaining a serious head injury — and citizen eyewitnesses adamantly denying that allegation.
Which is why many in the LGBT community have called for an independent investigation into the Rainbow Lounge raid, in addition to the internal inquiries being conducted by the Texas Alcoholic Beverage Commission and the Fort Worth Police Department.
But suddenly it appears doubtful that an independent investigation of the incident will ever occur, after the U.S. Attorney’s Office announced last week that it doesn’t intend to initiate one.
On July 21, the Fort Worth City Council unanimously approved a resolution calling for the U.S. Attorney’s Office to conduct an independent investigation, but on Aug. 6, U.S. Attorney James T. Jacks rebuffed that request in a written statement.
This week, the two city council members behind the resolution — Kathleen Hicks and Joel Burns — both said they still feel strongly that an independent investigation needs to occur.
The only question is, if not the U.S. Attorney’s Office, who’s going to conduct it?
"Basically, I am quite disappointed that the U.S. Attorney’s Office has chosen not to conduct an independent investigation of the Rainbow Lounge incident, and yes, I would like to see an independent investigation occur, but I don’t know what entity that would be," said Hicks, whose district is home to the Rainbow Lounge. "I thought they [the U.S. Attorney's Office] had agreed to do the investigation, and I think it would have gone a long way toward hopefully making folks feel like their concerns were heard. … It was a terrible incident, and I don’t want it to be swept under the rug."
Hicks said she’s interested in hearing recommendations as to how to proceed from the City Manager’s Diversity Task Force and the gay-rights group Fairness Fort Worth, both of which were formed in the wake of the raid.
But Jon Nelson, a spokesman for Fairness Fort Worth and a member of the Diversity Task Force, said it’s the city’s responsibility to come up with another entity to conduct an independent investigation so that results from the FWPD and TABC inquiries aren’t "second-guessed by the public."
"Given the city’s stance on the need for an independent investigation, I would assume the City Attorney’s Office is exploring all means possible to conduct an independent investigation, simply because the U.S. Attorney’s Office now says it’s not going to initiate one," Nelson said. "The burden is on the city, because it desires an independent investigation, to find out who can initiate it and what is required."
According to Jason Lamers, a spokesman for Mayor Mike Moncrief and the City Council, Nelson’s assumption may not be a safe one.
Asked whether the city is trying to identify another entity to conduct an independent investigation of the Rainbow Lounge raid, Lamers would only state his belief that the U.S. Attorney’s Office may still conduct its own probe.
According to the Aug. 6 statement from Jacks, the U.S. Attorney’s Office may review the results of the TABC and FWPD investigations. However, it would be the FBI’s responsibility to investigate the incident, but only if there is evidence that law enforcement officers violated federal criminal laws or patrons’ civil rights.
"They haven’t said they’re not going to do it," Lamers said. "The statement from Jacks did say, at the conclusion of the investigation, the FBI will review the available evidence.
"All I can say right now is that we’re going to wait to hear the final results of the chief’s [Police Department's] investigation and see whether or not the U.S. Attorney steps in."
Police Chief Jeffrey Halstead is expected to give the City Council an update on his department’s two internal investigations next week. Halstead announced in a statement last week that the internal investigations won’t be complete by the original target date, which was mid-August.
Burns, who’s openly gay, said this week he still feels an independent investigation is needed but didn’t want to comment further until he finds out what’s in Halstead’s update. "I think we’ll know a lot more about what happens next after we find that out," Burns said. "I think we just need to wait until Tuesday."
Lamers said Halstead is scheduled to give the update during the pre-council meeting, which begins at 8:30 a.m.
This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition August 14, 2009.