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

Hunt, Kunkle to visit LGBT groups next week

Former DPD Chief David Kunkle

The Dallas LGBT community will have a chance to get up close and personal with one announced candidate for mayor — and another possible candidate for mayor — next week.

Local activist Jesse Garcia sends along word that former Dallas Police Chief David Kunkle, who says he’s running, will visit Stonewall Democrats of Dallas on Tuesday — a day after filing begins for city elections.

And City Councilwoman Angela Hunt, who’s considering a run for mayor but hasn’t announced a decision, will visit LULAC #4871-The Dallas Rainbow Council on Thursday.

Here’s Garcia’s note:

The Stonewall Democrats of Dallas meets Tuesday, Feb. 15, 6:30 p.m., at Ojeda’s Restaurant, 4617 Maple Ave. Dallas, TX 75219. Guest speaker is Dallas Mayoral Candidate David Kunkle, former Dallas Police Chief. For more information, visit www.stonewalldemocratsofdallas.org. Meeting is open to the public. Voter registration will be available at the meeting.

LULAC 4871 Dallas Rainbow Council meets Thursday, Feb. 17, 6:30 p.m., at Havana’s, 4006 Cedar Springs Rd., Dallas, TX 75219. Guest speaker is Dallas City Councilwoman Angela Hunt. For more information, visit www.lulac4871.org. Meeting is open to the public. Voter registration will be available at the meeting.

—  John Wright

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

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

FWPD chief hopes to start hate crimes unit

Halstead asks for community’s help in securing funds for special unit, pledges to increase diversity


Tammye Nash  |  Senior Editor nash@dallasvoice.com

SEEKING INPUT | Fort Worth Police Chief Jeffrey Halstead listens to one of the more than 50 residents who attended a FWPD Diversity Forum this week. During the forum, Halstead announced plans to seek grants to fund a special unit to investigate hate crimes in the city. (Tammye Nash/DallasVoice)

Fort Worth Police Chief Jeffrey Halstead this week reaffirmed his commitment to maintaining a diverse police force staffed by officers who are aware of and sensitive to the special needs and issues of the city’s racially, ethnically and culturally diverse communities.

“We need people like the community to serve the community,” Halstead said during the community forum held Tuesday night, Aug. 31, at the Hazel Harvey Peace Center for Neighborhoods.

“There is strength in diversity, and if the police department doesn’t grow in diversity along with the city, you will see the gap,” Halstead said.

The chief also said he is pursuing grant money the department could use to establish a special unit, or at least an individual officer, dedicated specifically to investigating hate crimes in the city.

Halstead told the more than 50 people gathered for the Fort Worth Police Department Diversity Forum — organized by the department’s public relations department — that the department currently has no one trained to investigate hate crimes, which he said come with a special set of often intense and intensely-sensitive issues.

Hate crimes — such recent incidents of vandalism at a local mosque — “come with a nexus of issues that don’t occur in every crime,” Halstead said, adding that when officers who aren’t trained to recognize and deal with hate crimes can come across as rude and insensitive because “they are not understanding those special issues and the motivation behind such crimes.”

Halstead said that he has a “very narrow window of opportunity that is already closing” to acquire funding for a hate crimes unit, and he asked the community to “help us in moving forward with this.”

He asked that those in the community interested in helping the department by providing the information necessary to prove need for such a unit contact Lt. Paul Henderson, his chief of staff, at 817-392-4241.

Building diversity

Halstead said that he had recently returned from the three-day Consortium for Police Leadership and Equity conference, dedicated to building diversity and equity within police departments.

He said he had been invited to the conference “because of the progress we’re making” in Fort Worth toward those goals. But he acknowledged that the FWPD faces “significant challenges” in maintaining a diverse police force over the next five to 20 years. Some of those challenges, he said, arise out of the deep budget cuts forced on the city by the ongoing economic crisis.

“Some departments have had to sell off whole work divisions to make their budgets. We have had to be very creative to meet the 5 percent cuts the city has asked us to make,” Halstead said. “We are already grossly under-staffed. But we have cut $9 million from our budget without one layoff.”

To do that, the chief said, the police department has “retooled parts of our organization to maximize efficiency in our highest priority services,” but he added that the department has to plan today to meet the needs of future.

“What will our city look like in 20 years? We have to think about that now in our recruitment. We don’t have enough diversity in the department now, and that need will just continue to grow as the city grows,” he said. “We need to see a higher mix of persons to serve our rapidly growing city. You all know people in your communities who would make excellent police officers. We need you to encourage them to pursue this as a career.”

Recruitment officers speaking at the forum said that a group of about 1,450 applicants were that same night taking the civil service exam to join the department, and they “appear to be a very diverse group.”

LINES OF COMMUNICATION | Officer Sara Straten, the Fort Worth Police Department’s LGBT liaison, talks to Fairness Fort Worth President Thomas Anable after Tuesday’s FWPD Diversity Forum. Chief Jeffrey Halstead created Straten’s liaison position following the June 2009 raid on the Rainbow Lounge, the same incident that prompted the creation of Fairness Fort Worth. (Tammye Nash/Dallas Voice)

That group of applicants represented “about 50 percent” of those who had been identified as eligible to apply, according to Sgt. Klein, who said the applicants had been recruited from forums that include LGBT job fairs, military job fairs, church activities, community forums, crime fairs and college and university campuses.

She said that the department has no openings beyond this current class of officer trainees, but that “we feel it is important for the academy staff to stay in contact” with possible future cadets. To that end, academy staff members will continue to attend job fairs and community events, including the upcoming Tarrant County Gay Pride Week parade, block party and picnic, set for early October.

Klein said that possible recruits are not asked about their sexual orientation, so she had no idea how many of those take the civil service exam for the next academy class were LGBT.

However, Sgt. Garcia, another academy staff member, said that FWPD recruiters “interest was great” at a recent LGBT job fair FWPD recruiters attended. “We got a great reception there.And based on the number of e-mails I got afterward, I believe we got a great response” in terms of LGBT people who applied.

The department’s LGBT liaison, Officer Sara Straten, later said she, too, had received a large number of e-mails and phone calls from people in the LGBT community interested in applying for the police force.

Halstead said he believes the response from the LGBT community has come in response to the department’s outreach to the community in the wake of the Rainbow Lounge raid in June 2009.

“Where else have you seen such a catastrophic event happen, and then seen such good things happen?” Halstead said. “We do have challenges ahead of us, but this department is more open and caring than ever before.”

He continued, “The biggest challenge for any officer is fulfilling the expectations of the job and of the community. Sometimes an officer’s actions can be perceived as rude, but anyone who takes the oath has a personal calling to protect.”

Halstead described an incident that happened to him as a young man living in Miami when an officer there stopped him without cause and assaulted him “just because I had long hair and dark skin and was driving a fancy car,” which the officer saw as a sure sign he was a drug dealer.

That incident, he said, instilled in him the drive to create a police force where such things wouldn’t happen.

“I have zero tolerance for anyone being disrespected” by an officer on his police force, he said. “If you do that, you have violated your oath. Now the challenge for me is to build a police force that provides holistic service, 24-7. An officer can provide great service, even after an arrest has been made.”

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

—  Michael Stephens

Attacks on gays decried in northern Ky. city

Associated Press

COVINGTON, Ky. — Police have boosted patrols in a bar district in this northern Kentucky city following attacks that appeared to target gays.

Two people suffered slash wounds and two others had minor injuries in an Aug. 14 knife attack at a gas station in which anti-gay epithets were yelled at the victims, police said.

Police said they will start tracking incidents of ethnic and anti-gay slurs and hate speech, The Kentucky Enquirer reported. Also, a group of residents has formed “Zero Tolerance for Hate Crimes in Covington” and will host an event at six bars in MainStrasse on Saturday, Aug. 28 to raise money for an anti-hate campaign.

“We have had three incidents in the last several months and it has got to stop now,” said Mayor Denny Bowman.

Recent crimes spurred the Covington City Commission and more than 80 people to gather Tuesday, Aug. 24 at city hall to denounce hate crimes and reaffirm support for the human rights ordinance passed in 2003. The ordinance prohibits discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity.

City Commissioner Shawn Masters said he moved to Covington partly because of its diversity and is proud that the city has a human rights ordinance.

“I’m not proud of the fact we are here because of a certain incident that happened recently, but I think it is a good opportunity to reaffirm where this city stands,” Masters said.

Police Chief Lee Russo said two additional officers recently were assigned to the MainStrasse beat during peak hours. Also, the two patrol officers who roam throughout the city are focusing on MainStrasse, Russo said.

The police also want people to report slurs and hate speech to police so it can be tracked, Russo said.

—  John Wright

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