Fort Worth Police Department bans ‘bias-based policing’ against LGBT people, other groups

Chief Jeffrey Halstead

The Fort Worth Police Department has a new policy prohibiting “bias-based policing” — including bias against LGBT people — and officers who violate the policy are likely to be fired, according to FWPD officials who spoke to the Star-Telegram.

A police spokesman said the policy is not a response to any specific incident, but acknowledged that the department’s raid of the Rainbow Lounge gay bar in June 2009 was “on our mind.”

FWPD suspended three officers for a total of five days for their actions related to the raid, but determined that they didn’t use excessive force.

Jon Nelson, a founder of Fairness Fort Worth who once called the suspensions “absolutely inadequate,” praised Police Chief Jeffrey Halstead for the new policy.

“This policy would not exist but for the chief of police,” Nelson told the Star-Telegram. “He sets the tone and he made this decision and I think that this Police Department is significantly different because of his leadership.”

Halstead signed a special order enacting the new policy on Friday. It will be distributed to employees next week and takes effect immediately.

The policy specifically prohibits bias based on “race, color, gender, age, national origin, religion, disability, economic status, sexual orientation, gender expression, gender identity, transgender status, membership in a cultural group or other individual characteristics or distinctions.”

—  John Wright

Halstead fires officer for using excessive force following chase

Decision comes less than a week after chief pledges ‘zero tolerance’ for officers that disrespect citizens

Tammye Nash  |  Senior Editor nash@dallasvoice.com

W. A. Featherstone
W. A. Featherstone

Less than a week after Fort Worth Police Chief Jeffrey Halstead told a roomful of citizens gathered for a FWPD Diversity Forum that he has “zero tolerance for anyone being disrespected,” Halstead has fired an officer for using excessive force.

According to a statement released late Thursday afternoon, Sept. 2, Halstead issued an “indefinite suspension” — or termination — to Officer W.A. Featherstone for his actions following traffic stop this past spring.

Featherstone was fired effective Wednesday, Sept. 1.

According to a letter Halstead filed with the Civil  Service Commission on Thursday, the incident began shortly before 4 a.m on March 14, when a woman was stopped by police in the 800 block of West Berry Street after leading officers on a 22-mile chase.

According to the documents filed by Halstead, the woman had stopped, gotten out of her car and was walking backwards toward the patrol cars, with her hands above her head, when Featherstone grabbed her arm, intentionally tripped her and threw her face down on the ground.

Halstead’s letter said Featherstone then hit the woman several times with his left hand and his right knee, leaving her with bruises, a bloody nose and broken teeth.

The statement released to the press indicated that Featherstone had not been part of the pursuit of the woman and that he was not authorized to be at the scene when she finally stopped on Berry Street.

The statement also said that the incident had been videotaped by cameras in the police department’s helicopter, which was on the scene at the time of the incident.

The press release included a quote from Halstead, who said, “We have the greatest police officers in the country.

“However, as I’ve said many times before, if any employee engages in physically abusive conduct towards our citizens, we will find them and I will fire them.”

Featherstone, 29, was commissioned as a Fort Worth police officer on Sept. 26, 2008, and had been on the force for almost two years when he was fired.

An attorney representing Featherstone in the matter told the Fort Worth Star Telegram he would appeal the chief’s decision.

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition September 3, 2010.

—  Michael Stephens

W hotel responds to alleged anti-gay incidents

Malcolm Gage

Thomas Caramucci, general manager of the W Dallas – Victory hotel, issued a statement Sunday responding to our inquiry about two alleged anti-gay incidents at the hotel on Friday night following the Lady Gaga concert at the American Airlines Center. Both incidents reportedly involved the same off-duty Dallas police officer who was working security at the hotel. Derrick Brown, chair of the North Texas GLBT Chamber of Commerce, alleges that the off-duty officer used excessive force by choking him during a confrontation that occurred as Brown was making his way to Ghostbar, inside the W. Another gay man, Malcolm Gage, said his group was unfairly denied access to the hotel when they tried to visit friends who were staying there. Brown and Gage, who are both black, indicated that they planned to file an internal affairs complaint against the officer today.

“Thank you for reaching out to us,” Caramucci said in an e-mail sent Sunday. “We are aware of the incident and are currently looking further into the details of the situation, in cooperation with the Dallas Police Department. Please know that the safety and comfort of our guests is our top priority and any and all situations receive our utmost attention. Again, thanks for your inquiry. As you are aware W Dallas – Victory and the W brand are a strong supporters of the LGBT community and we appreciate the opportunity to respond.”

It’s worth noting that Starwood Hotels & Resorts Worldwide, which owns the W Dallas -Victory, received a perfect score of 100 on the Human Rights Campaign’s Corporate Equality Index in 2010. Stay tuned to Instant Tea and Dallas Voice for details about the investigation.

—  John Wright

NBC report: No excessive force used by FWPD in Rainbow Lounge raid

KXAS Channel 5, the local NBC affiliate, has posted a story on its Web site, citing unnamed Fort Worth city officials, saying that the Fort Worth Police Department’s investigation into the June 28 raid on the Rainbow Lounge found that officers did not use excessive force that night.

The sources also said that no officers will be fired over the incident although at least one may face some sort of disciplinary action.

Police Chief Jeffrey Halstead has scheduled a press conference to announce the results of the investigation tomorrow (Thursday) at 10 a.m. at the Rainbow Lounge.

TABC will also be releasing the findings in its investigation into its agents’ possible use of excessive force tomorrow morning.

—  admin