FW police chief enacts anti-bias policing policy

Fort Worth Police Chief Jeffrey Halstead

LGBT leader praises Halstead’s initiative, says ties between city, LGBT community continue to strengthen

TAMMYE NASH  |  Senior Editor
nash@dallasvoice.com

FORT WORTH —  Fort Worth Police Chief Jeffrey Halstead has implemented a new policy banning “bias-based policing” in his department, and Fort Worth LGBT community leader Jon Nelson this week praised the new policy as “a very positive move.”

“We didn’t discuss this with him [Halstead]. Nobody pressured him to do this. He did it on his own,” Nelson said of the new policy. “It’s as clear as it can be. It puts his employees on notice that they have to act without bias, and there are specific ramifications if they fail in that. I say, good for him.”

The policy, which Halstead issued Friday, Feb. 4, notes that “bias-based policing is prohibited in both enforcement of the law and delivery of police services.”

Any officer who violates the policy can be fired immediately.

The policy, the full text of which is available online at DallasVoice.com, reads: “Officers shall not use race, color, gender, age, national origin, religion, disability, economic status, sexual orientation, gender expression, gender identity, transgender status, membership in a cultural group or an individual’s ability/inability to speak English as the criteria for determining when or how to take enforcement action or provide police services.”

Jon Nelson

In an e-mail interview this week, Halstead said that although officers were already banned from acting on personal bias while on duty, the new policy is intended to reinforce that ban.

“The policy basically incorporates language located throughout departmental General Orders and consolidates it into one succinct order that clearly defines what bias-based policing means and strictly prohibits it,” Halstead said.

He also said the new policy was not implemented as a response to any particular incident, including the June, 2009, raid on the Rainbow Lounge gay bar by Fort Worth officers and agents with the Texas Alcoholic Beverage Commission.

Instead, Halstead said, “It is a proactive step to continue building trust in the community, which is essential for public and officer safety.”

Halstead said that the new policy has been in the works since last summer when he asked his chief of staff, Lt. Paul Henderson, to research the idea and see if any other major cities had similar policies before drafting the Fort Worth policy.

“Creating policy can take a significant amount of time,” Halstead said. “We have to be careful to ensure we are not in conflict with any laws or regulations. And once it was drafted, we circulated it to our community relations officers, police leaders in our diverse associations and our law department to provide input and feedback.”

Once the final draft was complete, the order went into effect on Feb. 4.

“Although no specific reason behind the timing exists, it is appropriate and holds special meaning that the order went into effect at the beginning of Black History Month,” Halstead said.

The chief said that any officer who witnesses a possible incidence of biased policing is required to report the incident to his or her supervisor. The supervisor then reports the incident to the department’s Internal Affairs Division, which will investigate the allegations.

Citizens should report such violations directly to Internal Affairs, the chief said.

“Internal Affairs investigates all allegations dealing with discrimination in the workplace, as well as the city’s Human Resources Department,” Halstead said. “Internal Affairs is the lead investigative entity for allegations of discrimination regarding employees as it pertains to interactions with the public. If it is found that any criminality exists on the part of a police employee, the chief’s Special Investigative Unit would take the lead for filing criminal charges if applicable.”

Halstead also noted that his department is “in the process of putting together a hate or bias crimes alert program” through which community members who subscribe to the program will be notified of any hate or bias crimes that are reported. He said that the department is “in the process of completing the computer program necessary to build the service.”

In 2010, Halstead said, “six actual hate crimes” were investigated by Major Case detectives, the officers tasked with handling such cases.

“We use the word ‘actual’ because the definition of a hate crime is very specific regarding the primary motive for a criminal act, and many times what is reported as a hate crime does not meet the statute’s criteria,” Halstead said.

“In the future, we are looking to begin tracking ‘bias’ incidents, meaning that if any actions or statements are made as a part of a crime, but the crime itself does not meet the criteria of a hate crime, we want to be able to track those as ‘bias incidents,’” he said.

Halstead added that the new ban on bias-based policing is not directly related to the hate crime alert program, but is instead “more related to the protection of individual rights of our communities and to provide a clear departmental position that bias-based policing will not be tolerated.”

Although many LGBT community leaders were angered with Halstead’s initial response to the Rainbow Lounge raid, most now consider the police chief a valuable friend to the community.

“He is a human being, just like anyone else. We all make mistakes,” Nelson said of Halstead. “But he has gone from ‘Let’s just take a deep breath’ to, on his own, coming up with this new policy, a policy that has real teeth. That is a long way to come.

“I think that every step he has taken has brought the police department and our community closer together, starting with [the appointment of openly lesbian Officer] Sara Straten [as the department’s liaison to the LGBT community],” Nelson said. “That’s not just window dressing. … I think the chief wants his police force to be fundamentally fair, and he’s willing to buck the Police Officers Association to do it.”

The Police Officers Association is the FWPD officers’ union, an organization, Nelson said, with “tremendous political clout” whose “only concern so far has been to protect their own, even officers convicted of DWI and killing people with cars.”

Some community leaders have also suggested that it was pressure from the Police Officers Association that kept Halstead from being able to hand down stiffer discipline to officers involved in the Rainbow Lounge raid.

Halstead said this week that while his leadership approach “has not necessarily changed, I continue to learn from mistakes and experience personal growth. True leadership demands constant evaluation and adjustment in order to provide the best service possible. …  It also requires some risk-taking to implement progressive change within any organization.”

Halstead said that he believes “the culture of policing” is changing at the national level as the diversity of the country grows, and progressive police departments are “taking proactive steps to facilitate those changes as quickly as possible.”

“My intent when I was hired as the Fort Worth police chief has always been to focus on service and to provide an organizational model of ‘service with respect.’ That has not changed,” Halstead said. “I am proud that our police department is being viewed as a progressive policing model and remains on of the leaders in community policing today.”

Nelson said he believes that the strengthening relationship between Halstead’s department and the LGBT community is mirrored by the strengthening relationship between the community and city government over all.

“The bottom line is, we’ve gotten used to each other. There is a level of trust here now,” Nelson said. “They [city officials] understand that the community, that Fairness Fort Worth for example, will not be reluctant to stand behind the police chief when he does something like this. Nor will we be reticent to voice opposition if necessary.

“But we won’t do it by calling names or demonizing anybody,” he added. “We will do it the way the First Amendment meant for it to be done. We will voice our opinions, and we will take action when necessary.”

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition Feb. 11, 2011.

—  John Wright

Top 10: FW changes continued in wake of Rainbow Lounge

Rainbow.Lounge
FROM PROTEST TO PARTY | The Rev. Carole West, left, and David Mack Henderson, right, both of Fairness Fort Worth, are shown with Chief Jeffrey Halstead during a barbecue at the Rainbow Lounge on June 28 to mark the one-year anniversary of the raid. (Tammye Nash/Dallas Voice)

No. 8:

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When the Fort Worth Police Department  and the Texas Alcoholic Beverage raided the Rainbow Lounge on June 28, 2009 — the 40th anniversary of the Stonewall Rebellion — it sparked outrage around the world and enough headlines to fill newspapers for the rest of the year.

But the story didn’t end with 2009, as repercussions from the raid continued this year.

Publicity from the raid undoubtedly helped punch up business for the Rainbow Lounge, enough so that by January, the bar’s owner, J.R. Schrock, announced that he had a second bar — Percussions — in the works, as well as a third club and possibly a fourth.

In February — despite acknowledgments from both TABC and FWPD that the raid should never have happened — officials with the Fort Worth city attorney’s office said they were going ahead with efforts to prosecute those arrested in the raid, including Chad Gibson, the young man who suffered a lasting brain injury while in TABC custody.

One of Fort Worth police Chief Jeff Halstead’s first acts after the raid was to appoint openly gay officer Sara Straten as his department’s first full-time liaison to the LGBT community.

On June 28, as a way of highlighting the progress the city had made in the year since the raid and improved relations between the police department and the LGBT community, Rainbow Lounge held a party attended by Halstead, Straten and many of the officers who patrol the area in which the bar is located.

Despite the progress though, in July anti-gay forces packed the City Council chambers to once again protest the council’s vote the previous November to amend Fort Worth’s nondiscrimination ordinance to offer protections to transgenders and other initiatives proposed by the City Manager’s Diversity Task Force.

At the end of the public comments section of the meeting, Mayor Mike Moncrief told the crowd that while “there is room for all of us” in Fort Worth, “What’s in the Bible or what isn’t in the Bible, that’s not our job. Our job is to maintain the quality of life in our city, and that’s what this [diversity] training is all about.”

As the year continued, more examples of the changes in the city emerged: The police department reached out to the LGBT community in looking for new recruits. Halstead announced plans to start a hate crimes unit. The annual Tarrant County gay Pride celebration expanded, adding a block party and holding a parade and picnic far larger than in years past.

In September, the council quietly approved adding domestic partner benefits for lesbian and gay city employees, and in mid-November, the city attorney’s office announced that all charges against those arrested in the raid were being dropped.

Perhaps one of the most welcome results of the Rainbow Lounge raid, however, was the emergence and continued growth of Fairness Fort Worth.

Formed quickly in the wake of the raid to offer assistance to witnesses who wanted to testify during investigations into the raid, the group has morphed into an active LGBT advocacy organization complete with officers and a strategy for the future — filling a void that has long existed in Tarrant County’s LGBT community.

— Tammye Nash

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition December 31, 2010.

—  Kevin Thomas

In defense of Fort Worth’s response to the Rainbow Lounge raid

Jon Nelson

By Jon Nelson  |  Fairness Fort Worth

I read with interest the Rev. Stephen Sprinkle’s commentary contrasting the Atlanta outcome with Fort Worth’s after raids at gay bars in each city. He concludes that “Factors contributing to the non-resolution of the Fort Worth police raid may include a less-than-robust defense of bar patrons by the Rainbow Lounge ownership at the time of the bust, and the less aggressive approach Fort Worth gay leaders employed to bring the city and the police department to account.”

The headline contrasts the $1 million settlement with none in Fort Worth. Although the Rev. Sprinkle doesn’t mention this as a contrast, I’ll deal with it anyway. The Atlanta suit was filed by a private attorney on behalf of 19 patrons of the club and no such lawsuit has yet been filed in Fort Worth .The LGBT community formed Fairness Fort Worth at the outset and stepped forward to represent the community. The injustice experienced was against the patrons and not the bar owner nor any employees of the bar. This contrasts sharply with the facts in Atlanta where the police targeted both the bar and its patrons.

The Rev. Sprinkle’s one striking contrast is his belief that the Fort Worth Police Department has never issued an apology and Atlanta has. I have attended at least three meeting where Police Chief Jeffrey Halstead has publicly apologized; the last one was in front of the Rainbow Lounge at a news conference held on Nov. 5, 2009.

The Rev. Sprinkle writes that there has been a “non-resolution” of the raid on the Rainbow lounge. Let me share with you what has happened since the raid and, in the words of the Rev. Sprinkle, “You be the judge”:

—  admin

Hear ‘Holly is a Homophobe’ live at Trees tonight

Straight local band Bible Fire hits with ‘Holly is a Homophobe’

Clearly, you should watch what you say around Rob Halstead or it could turn into a song.

When a day-job co-worker of the Bible Fire songwriter went on a hostile rant against the gays, Halston ripped her a new one by putting it to music.  The result was “Holly is a Homophobe,” a single from the local band’s new album The Pursuit of Imperfection. Unexpectedly, when the group performs, it’s one of their most requested and popular songs.

“Holly is this girl me and Grant [Scruggs, the band’s guitarist] both worked with,” Halstead says. “She’s an enigma to me because she’s so nice and caring and then prejudiced all the way around.” An example of the lyric: Holly is a homophobe / Disdainfully, she told me so / Her biggest fear is turning queer / And I just thought that everyone should know.

Read the rest of the article here.

DEETS: Trees, 2709 Elm St. Sept. 16. Doors open at 7 p.m. TreesDallas.com

—  Rich Lopez

Break it down

Straight local band Bible Fire has a hit with ‘Holly is a Homophobe’

RICH LOPEZ | Staff Writer lopez@dallasvoice.com

STRAIGHT NOT NARROW | The Bible Fire bassist Rob Halstead, center, wrote about a gay-hating colleague despite few ties to the gay community; the band’s drummer, Chris Isaacs, left, has many gay ties.
STRAIGHT NOT NARROW | The Bible Fire bassist Rob Halstead, center, wrote about a gay-hating colleague despite few ties to the gay community; the band’s drummer, Chris Isaacs, left, has many gay ties.

THE BIBLE FIRE
Trees, 2709 Elm St.
Sept. 16. Doors open at 7 p.m.
TreesDallas.com

Clearly, you should watch what you say around Rob Halstead or it could turn into a song.

When a day-job co-worker of the Bible Fire songwriter went on a hostile rant against the gays, Halston ripped her a new one by putting it to music.  The result was “Holly is a Homophobe,” a single from the local band’s new album The Pursuit of Imperfection. Unexpectedly, when the group performs, it’s one of their most requested and popular songs.

“Holly is this girl me and Grant [Scruggs, the band’s guitarist] both worked with,” Halstead says. “She’s an enigma to me because she’s so nice and caring and then prejudiced all the way around.” An example of the lyric: Holly is a homophobe / Disdainfully, she told me so / Her biggest fear is turning queer / And I just thought that everyone should know.

After a misunderstanding, Holly had a freak out when she thought someone called her a gay slur. According to Halstead, she went on a rant that took him and Scruggs by surprise. He can see, though, she is sort of a victim to the usual checklist of items: “Country girl from out in the boonies, a generic Texas town, religious parents, ignorant.”

It’s not hard to hate someone you’ve never met / But face to face and still you’ve no regret / Holly, there’s a reason that nobody agrees with you.

Interestingly, Halstead admits to have little exposure to gay the community beyond his wife’s brother who is out and some curious treks to Oak Lawn in his younger days. But homosexuality isn’t an issue with him per se.

“My stance is, it’s your life,” he says. “It doesn’t affect me personally, but I’m not saying I don’t care, I just can’t care if I’m not directly involved.

It’s like I feel I can’t have an opinion on abortion because it’s a woman’s issue and something only women experience and understand.”

He makes it make sense. Straight men may not relate to gay issues, but Halstead doesn’t feel that’s reason for anti-gay (or fill in the blank) rhetoric.  “I Just have problems when people or religion are hurting people or affecting rights.”

He adds, though, that his wife is a huge advocate for gay rights because of her brother and even “punched a dude in the nose,” for spouting off.

By contrast, drummer Chris Isaacs does have a strong connection to the community. The best man at his wedding was his gay best friend, and he’s lost friends to AIDS. Even without contributing to the creation of the song, it rings loudly with him.

“This runs deeper for me because my wife and I have had so many gay friends,” he says. “We really detest this kind of behavior.”

You’ve got trauma, overprotected / Odds are adding up to gay or molested / A baby raised in ignorance, passing on hatred / Rise above, write it off, recalculate it.

Perhaps Holly herself is a way-closeted lesbian, but Halstead doesn’t figure that to be the case.

“You would think, but no, I really don’t believe she’s closeted,” he says.

Congratulations we commend you / Dedicated hater’s a full time job / Now let’s all give a round of applause to Holly / Holly, take a bow.

Nor did the song really open her mind even though it rips her to shreds. Halstead’s disappointed by this. He had hopes for the tiniest seed to be planted.

“Nothing is going to change people who make up their minds,” he says. “I would like to think it changed her, but I don’t really think so. She does come to our shows, though!”

I know you were born in the middle of a former Confederate state / But your views are two decades behind the times and still running late.

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition September 10, 2010

—  Kevin Thomas

FWPD, Chief Halstead to host Diversity Forum

FWPD Chief Jeff Halstead, center, with LGBT community leaders the Rev. Carol West and David Mack Henderson

The Public Relations Office of the Fort Worth Police Department is hosting a Diversity Forum on Tuesday, Aug. 31, from 7 p.m. to 8:30 p.m., at the Hazel Harvey Peace Center for Neighborhoods, 818 Missouri Ave., in Fort Worth. It will feature FWPD Chief Jeff Halstead.

Topics up for discussion include recruiting for employment, strengthening communication and partnerships and patrol bureau realignments. There will be a question-and-answer period at the end.

According to an e-mail I got about the forum, the purpose of the meeting is “to make a difference.” The e-mail said:

“The concept of diversity encompasses acceptance and respect, which is the police department’s motto: ‘Service with Respect, Dedicated to Protect.’”

—  admin

Rainbow Lounge to mark anniversary of raid with party Monday


Rally protesting Rainbow Lounge raid
Within hours of Fort Worth police and TABC agents raiding the Rainbow Lounge on July 28, 2009 — the 40th anniversary of the Stonewall Riots — angry LGBT people and allies staged a protest outside the nightclub.

Monday, June 28 will be the one-year anniversary of the raid on the Rainbow Lounge, and the club will mark the date with a barbecue party, plus a meet-and-greet with Fort Worth Police Chief Jeff Halstead and about 20 of his officers, including the deputy chief and beat officers for the area.

The party is set for 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. on the Rainbow Lounge patio, 651 S. Jennings, and the first 125 people to get there will get barbecue and soft drinks.

A whole lot has changed in Fort Worth in the 12 months since two agents with the Texas Alcoholic Beverage Commission and several FWPD officers raided the then-newly-opened gay bar on the 40th anniversary — almost to the minute — of the Stonewall Rebellion in New York. Watch the July 2 issue of Dallas Voice for a story on those changes.

We have had TONS and TONS of coverage of the raid and its aftermath. Here is one of our earliest stories.

—  admin

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

FWPD press conference still on

We have had a couple folks contact us here at the Voice this morning saying that they had heard 1) that Fort Worth Police Chief Jeff Halstead’s press conference at 10 a.m. Thursday (tomorrow) at Rainbow Lounge — to announce the results of his department’s investigation into the Rainbow Lounge raid — has been canceled; and that 2) the actual report will not be released to the public.

I called the FWPD to check and they tell me the press conference is still on. As for whether Chief Halstead will just summarize the report’s findings or release the full report publicly, I don’t know yet.

—  admin

Halstead says policies failed, investigation continues

Fort Worth Police Chief Halstead told the City Council that policies regarding bar checks were inadequate and new policies have been established to go into effect Sept. 1.
He also said the investigation continues and he will not rush it. And he apologized for his early comments that offended people.

—  admin