Banks Appointed to Citizen Police Oversight Board

Kris Banks

Kris Banks

On Wednesday the Houston City Council confirmed Mayor Annise Parker’s appointment of Former Houston GLBT Political Caucus President Kris Banks to the Independent Police Oversight Board.  The Oversight Board provides a way for Houstonians to have input into allegations against police officers involving use of excessive force, discharge of firearms, serious bodily injury or death or mistreatment of citizens.  The Board also makes recommendations on recruitment, training and evaluation of police officers; and considers community concerns regarding the Department.  Houstini talked with Banks about his new role:

[Houstini] Why have you agreed to serve on the Oversight Board?

[Banks] I believe the Oversight Board performs an important and vital function that benefits all involved. Police officers are granted extraordinary powers over their fellow Houstonians. They can, under legally sufficient circumstances, detain people against their will, walk into other people’s homes without their permission, and even use physical force to make people comply. We grant police officers these powers because they are necessary for the officers to do their jobs. However, with these great powers come great responsibility, and the Oversight Board exists as a check on those powers, thereby protecting the public against the very rare officer who uses her or his powers irresponsibility or excessively. It also benefits the police department. With the assurance that the Board is providing oversight, members of the public can be more confident of the police department, and form a better working relationship with officers.

[Houstini] What do LGBT Houstonians who have concerns about police behavior need to know about the mission of the Oversight Board?

[Banks] Historically, the LGBT community has had concerns about very broad and obvious police harassment, like bar raids. Incidents like these still occur (see Rainbow Lounge in Fort Worth), but they tend to not be the focus of issues that exists between the LGBT community and the police department. Concerns between the community and the police department now tend to be over specific incidents that sometimes come to light and sometimes do not. That being said, the IPOB will review internal police investigations for complaints of excessive force, any discharge of a firearm, any time there is a death or serious injury, or any matter the police chief refers to us. We make recommendations, and the chief has ultimate discretion. What I want to highlight here is that a complaint has to be made for the IPOB to have any role. Complaints have to be sworn, either by the complainant, or, if the complaint is anonymous, by the person taking the complaint.

LGBT Houstonians should also know that I take my role as a community representative very seriously. I will not only take my perspective as an LGBT Houstonian to the police department, I will also take the knowledge I gain back of police procedure back to the community. For instance, I mentioned anonymous complaints above. In the training I have received so far, I learned that organizations can be deputized to take anonymous complaints (LULAC and the NAACP are both deputized). Anonymous complaints are, unfortunately, a big concern for our community. Whether because our congress has failed to pass job protections, family concerns, or any other personal reason, there are still many, many people in the closet. But being in the closet does not mean that a person is not protected. I will learn more about the deputizing community groups and take that back to organizations in our community like the Caucus, Community Center and Transgender Foundation so they can begin that process (as a caveat, I do not have a full list of deputized organizations and any of these organizations may already be deputized).

—  admin

Editorial in LGBT magazine sparks controversy in Houston City Council District C race

Ellen Cohen

Ellen Cohen

An editorial in Houston’s abOUT magazine (a free glossy distributed at bars, restaurants and clubs) questions whether former state representative, and current Houston City Council District C candidate Ellen Cohen is truly an ally of the LGBT community, as she claims.

The editorial questions Cohen’s acceptance of $10,000 in contributions from home builder Bob Perry during her 2010 Democratic legislative campaign (Perry was a major donor to the campaign to pass a statewide constitutional ban on marriage equality in 2005) and her record on LGBT issues while in Austin. In the two weeks since abOUT published the editorial, written under the nom de plume “Jack H,” the issue has snowballed, causing some to question abOUT’s connections to another District C candidate, and leading to a police complaint against the president of the city’s oldest LGBT organization.

Cohen acknowledges that she received the contribution from Perry but says: “I’ve never met him, he’s never asked me for anything. I am a huge supporter of the LGBT community, and have been since long before I ran for office.” As executive director of the Houston chapter of the American Jewish Committee, Cohen was a vocal supporter of efforts in the ’80s to obtain same-sex partner benefits for city of Houston employees. “Bob Perry contributed to me. I accepted the donation,” continued Cohen.

—  admin

What’s Brewing: El Paso DP benefits fight not over; petition calls for Southern Baptist apology

Your weekday morning blend from Instant Tea:

1. The El Paso City Council’s 5-4 vote Tuesday to reinstate domestic partner benefits likely won’t be the last word on the matter, the El Paso Times reports. Two of the council members who voted to reinstate benefits are leaving office this month, and at least one of their replacements says he would have voted against reinstating DP benefits. Meanwhile, another of the council members who voted to reinstate benefits says she wants to put the issue back on the ballot as a charter amendment in November. And the anti-gay pastor behind last year’s ballot initiative to rescind DP benefits, Tom Brown, says he’ll launch recall petitions against Mayor John Cook and two councilmembers who voted in favor of DP benefits and are not leaving office.

2. A coalition of LGBT groups will deliver a petition containing nearly 10,000 signatures today to the Southern Baptist Convention during its annual meeting in Phoenix, calling on the SBC to apologize for the harm its teachings have caused LGBT people. “We call on the Southern Baptist Convention to stop misusing the Bible to promote religion-based bigotry and start recognizing the enormous pain and suffering caused by its mistreatment of LGBT people, particularly vulnerable youth,” said Dr. Jack McKinney, a former Southern Baptist minister and spokesperson for Faith in America. “History has not been kind to the Southern Baptist Convention’s record on minorities, and it is making the same awful mistake today by perpetuating abuse against gay people.”

3. The Houston GLBT Political Caucus is asking people to contact local media outlets and demand accurate and respectful reporting about transgender victims, after several outlets identified a murdered transgender woman as a “male prostitute,” a “cross-dresser” and a “transvestite” this week. The Caucus says only one of six outlets made an effort to get it right and correct their coverage. Here’s the contact info for the others: Houston Chronicle – 713-362-7171; KPRC – 713-778-4910; KHOU – 713-526-1111; Fox 26 – 713-479-2600; Houston Press – 713-280-2400.

 

—  John Wright

Houston GLBT Political Caucus condemns Gov. Rick Perry’s big anti-gay pray day

Earlier we mentioned that Texas Gov. Rick Perry is organizing a big pray-a-thon or whatever-the-hell-you-wanna-call-it at Reliant Stadium in Houston in August. The event itself is hardly surprising from Perry, but his decision to partner with the American Family Association — a certified anti-gay hate group — is a major slap in the face to the LGBT community. (We wonder if The Economist still thinks Perry will soften his stance on same-sex marriage?) At this point, our biggest regret is that the event isn’t being held in Dallas because the protests, which are already being organized on Facebook, should be a lot of fun. Here’s what the Houston GLBT Political Caucus had to say about Perry’s big anti-gay pray day in a statement this morning:

HOUSTON, Texas – The Houston GLBT Political Caucus, representing approximately 250,000 people throughout the Greater Houston Metropolitan Area has condemned the decision of Governor Rick Perry to “reach out” to the anti-GLBT hate group American Family Association (AFA) to serve as primary host and sponsor for his upcoming “Day of Prayer” event.

“AFA is a recognized hate group. Its primary existence is to demonize GLBT Americans and oppose equality.” said Caucus president Noel Freeman. “It is abhorrent that Governor Perry would choose to kickoff his presidential ambitions in partnership with a hate group that refers to us as Nazis, claims the Holocaust was caused by the GLBT community, and supports the eradication of people living with HIV.”

While the Caucus is a strong proponent of religious freedom, and encourages its members and others to exercise their constitutional right to exercise that religious freedom, the line must be drawn when the governor of the great State of Texas asks a hate group to serve as his primary partner in an event of this nature. Such a partnership serves as nothing more than an assault on the GLBT community.

“Governor Perry’s partnership with AFA is very telling of his opinion of the GLBT community, which is surprising, considering the number of gay and lesbian staff who have worked in his office over the years.” Freeman said. “We encourage all members of the GLBT community and those others who support equality and oppose hate to stand by our side in condemning this reprehensible act by Governor Perry and demand he exclude AFA from this event.”

The Houston GLBT Political Caucus is the oldest continually operating GLBT civil rights organization in the United States.

—  John Wright

WATCH: Houston councilwoman 'brought to tears' after being accused of hating gays

OK, I admit it, I’m sick and tired of the other major cities in Texas getting all the fun gay stories this week. First there was the big hubbub over Austin Pride, and now a Houston city councilwoman has been brought to tears after she was accused of hating gay people. How great is that?!

Actually, despite the headline from Fox 26, I didn’t really see any tears in the video. And Fox’s story is wrong too: Councilwoman Wanda Adams didn’t vote against funding a facility that provides housing for people with HIV/AIDS. She instead chose to leave chambers so she didn’t have to vote, which to me is actually worse. (Maybe Adams was just afraid that if she stayed, gay Councilwoman Sue Lovell would tell her to shut it.)

According to the Houston GLBT Political Caucus, Adams represents both the Sunnyvale area, which has the highest concentration of HIV in Houston, and Montrose, the city’s gayborhood. Adams also used to employ Kris Banks, who’s now the president of GLBT Political Caucus.

Like I said, it’s good stuff.


—  John Wright