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

Letters • 10.22.10

Many questions on Club Dallas raid

I just read John Wright’s article about the recent raid at Club Dallas (“11 arrested in raid at Club Dallas,” Dallas Voice, Oct. 15).

What is not clear to me is this: What exactly was the “complaint” that was filed with Dallas Police Department? I did not read this in the article. I am not so much interested as to who filed this complaint (though there are many people or groups that I am sure would love to see Club Dallas shut down!). But what was the substance of this complaint that “forced” the DPD to investigate Club Dallas?

Surely, the DPD knows, or should have known, what the 34-year-old Club Dallas is all about, as well as all of the other adult swingers’ clubs and bathhouses in the city where nudity and sexual contact are common? Was this a person who somehow paid and entered this private club, not knowing what a bathhouse was and why many members of the community patronize this private club? Or was this simply a “noise” issue of people coming and going at all hours?

If what is going on in these clubs is illegal, why are they allowed to be open for business at all?

Is Laura Martin seriously unaware of what goes on in a bathhouse? Seriously? Is she aware of the substance of the initiating complaint? Is she OK with DPD’s follow-up investigation and subsequent arrests?

Can Laura Martin, or anyone at the DPD, give us a direct explanation as to how a private club that requires a paid entry fee and, if I remember correctly, warning signs as to the nudity that goes on in the establishment is considered a “public space”?

Isn’t by definition a public space some place where anyone, man, woman or child, can freely visit? Can just anyone walk into Club Dallas? If not, again, how is it considered by law enforcement and the courts as a public space?

Does this mean that all of the other bathhouses and any other sex clubs in Dallas will also be subject to the same type of investigations, gay or straight?
Your thoughts here would be appreciated. Again, please keep up the good work.

Ludwik Kowal
Hong Kong

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Thanks for the hot Szot

Thank you for the great coverage of Paulo Szot (“Hot Szot,” Dallas Voice, Oct. 15). It’s so refreshing to see an out gay man in this kind of role.

Gordon Yusko
Via E-Mail

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Broden’s dangerous views

Thanks for your coverage of congressional candidate Stephen Broden’s homophobic statements on Fox’s The Glenn Beck Show (DallasVoice.com/Instant Tea, Oct. 5).

It is troubling that Dallas Morning News has not covered this and would endorse this radical individual given the 30th District’s large LGBT community.
I also want to point out Broden’s close ties to a radical abortion group called Maafa 21 and his association with Life Dynamics President Mark Crutcher.

Broden holds many very dangerous views!

Michael Thomas
Dallas

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Aggie Corps more accepting of gays now

I am writing in response to the open letter Dallas Voice published online from Clint Hooper to Texas A&M’s acting commandant, Col. Jake Betty (“A former Aggie cadet comes out and comes clean,” Dallas Voice.com Instant Tea, Oct. 11).

In 2003 I became the first openly gay cadet to complete the Corps of Cadets program, and did so as an outfit commander, just like Mr. Hooper. While my interactions with some other cadets were sometimes difficult and occasionally devolved into outright harassment, I had the full support of then-commandant Gen. John Van Alstyne and his staff, which included Col. Jake Betty.

Mr. Hooper’s very public coming out is something that takes a lot of courage to do, particularly when you consider the conservative history and environment of the Corps of Cadets, and I commend him for it. However, his letter lends the impression that corps leadership, and Col. Betty in particular, do not understand what gay and lesbian cadets face and do not have an adequate sensitivity to those issues in order to address them properly.

I respectfully disagree.

Col. Betty is one of the most honorable men I know, and I could not have made it through the corps being openly gay were it not for the leadership, guidance and understanding of him, Gen. Van Alstyne and the rest of the commandant’s staff.

I can assure you and your readers that Col. Betty and the rest of commandant’s staff do indeed understand what it means to be openly gay in the Corps of Cadets and will not allow it to be an impediment to the success of any cadet. In fact, their understanding and sensitivity have helped ensure that openly gay cadets do not experience the negativity I did all those years ago.

After I served as the first openly gay outfit commander in 2003, there was an openly gay Aggie Band drum major in 2004, and another openly gay cadet served as an outfit commander just a few years later.

Our experiences and the support we received from Col. Betty and others clearly demonstrate openly gay men and women have been and will continue to be successful, strongly contributing members of the Corps of Cadets.

I am pleased Mr. Hooper’s letter has given us an opportunity to have this discussion again in the Aggie community, but I question the decision to publish it in Dallas Voice, as opposed to the A&M student newspaper The Battalion, where it might have the greatest impact among Aggies.

I think it is a discussion to be had among alumni and current students who have the greatest stake in the organization, but the broadcasting of a letter that misplaces the blame for intolerance in a statewide forum reinforces the view that the Corps of Cadets is still a harshly intolerant place for us. Trust me: It is a far better place than it used to be, and a far better organization than Mr. Hooper presents it to be

While there is still a lot of progress to be made, the Fightin’ Texas Aggie Corps of Cadets is a more welcoming place for gays and lesbians because of the outstanding leadership of Col. Jake Betty and the rest of the commandant’s staff.

Thanks and Gig ’em!

Noel A. Freeman
Texas A&M Class of 2003

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This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition October 22, 2010

—  Kevin Thomas

Did the Rainbow Lounge raid prompt TABC to stop arresting people for public intoxication?

In fiscal year 2009, Texas Alcoholic Beverage Commission agents made 761 arrests for public intoxication — a figure that includes a few high-profile ones you may have heard about at the Rainbow Lounge in Fort Worth.

In fiscal year 2010, which began one month after the Rainbow Lounge raid, TABC has made just 81 arrests for public intoxication, The Austin American-Statesman reported over the weekend.

Based on these numbers, one might deduce that the highly controversial raid — which resulted in three agents being fired — also prompted TABC to abruptly change its enforcement practices. But according to the agency, this is only partly true.

TABC officials say the changes really began in fiscal year 2007, two years before the raid. Consider that in fiscal year 2006, TABC agents made a whopping 3,100 public intoxication arrests.

But in response to a long series of controversies — the Rainbow Lounge raid being just one of the latest — TABC began shifting its focus from petty criminal enforcement back to its mandate of regulating the businesses that sell alcohol.

Carolyn Beck, a spokeswoman for TABC who also now serves as its liaison to the LGBT community, told Instant Tea on Monday that’s it’s “impossible to calculate” how much of a factor the Rainbow Lounge raid has been.

“If you look at the decreasing numbers of criminal citations issued by our agents, and the increasing number of hours spent on investigations, it’s clear that we have been moving in this direction since FY 2007,” Beck said. “But you can also see a significant jump forward this fiscal year which started 9/1/09. It’s impossible to calculate how much of that push was in response to the Rainbow Lounge, but certainly incidents like the Rainbow Lounge and the shooting in Austin resulted in our agency direction changing at a faster pace.”

—  John Wright