City asks AG’s office whether records related to raid of The Club-Dallas should be released

The city of Dallas has requested an opinion from the Office of the Attorney General of Texas as to whether the city must release records related to the Police Department’s Oct. 8 raid on The Club-Dallas, a gay bathhouse in Deep Ellum.

Dallas Voice has requested, under the Texas Public Information Act, all records related to the 11 arrests that occurred during the raid, as well as all documents related to a complaint DPD says was filed against The Club-Dallas by a citizen that led to the raid.

In a Nov. 2 letter to Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott responding to the Voice’s request, Assistant City Attorney J. Middlebrooks wrote that parts of the requested information are protected from public disclosure. A full copy of the letter is below. The AG’s office has 45 days to issue a decision.

—  John Wright

UT Arlington GSA honors David Mack Henderson

Joshua Little, David Mack Henderson and Zachary Murphy

On Thursday, Oct. 28 the Gay Straight Alliance at the University of Texas at Arlington celebrated the 30-year anniversary of the founding of the campus’s first gay organization.

As part of the celebration, they honored David Mack Henderson of Fairness Fort Worth. That organization was created in the wake of the Rainbow Lounge raid and has worked with the city to become more inclusive.

Henderson was one of the founders of the UTA Gay/Lesbian Association when he was a student at the school. He is a tax accountant and Realtor and is a facilitator for the diversity training that all Fort Worth city employees must take. In the 1980s, he was a member of the Dallas Gay Alliance board and a founder of Resource Center Dallas.

The Certificate of Appreciation was presented by GSA President Joshua Little and Vice President Zachary Murphy.

The GSA meets every Wednesday at noon in the Upper University Center, usually in the Guadalupe Room. The group is open to all students. UTA policy prohibits discrimination based on sexual orientation. Homage is another LGBTQ organization at UTA. Homage meets Thursday evenings in the University Center.

—  David Taffet

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

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

‘Christian’ group plans to attend Fort Worth council meeting tonight to protest city’s ‘homosexual/transgender agenda’

Earlier today, I got an e-mail from Pastor Curtis Smith with Trinity Metropolitan Community Church in Arlington, saying that a group calling itself “Believers Stand United” had been circulating an e-mail urging all the God-fearing Christians in the Metroplex to head over to Cowtown tonight for the Fort Worth City Council meeting to speak out against an impending “major move by the city to promote and implement a homosexual/transgender agenda in the city.”

The e-mail talked about the 20 recommendations made by the City Manager’s Diversity Task Force in the wake of the Rainbow Lounge raid last June, and warned that the city manager “has started implementation of these without public discussion.”

(Just for the record, most of the items on the list required no action by the City Council. The only one that did that has been implemented was the amendment of the city’s nondiscrimination ordinance to include protections for transgender people, and that happened after a marathon council session last year during which PLENTY of people had the chance to speak against it.)

The-email said: “All of these recommendations would be funded by your dollars as a taxpayer in Fort Worth and would give this group of citizens’ special status and privileges.” Hmm. We haven’t heard that “special privileges” argument before, have we?

The e-mail continued:

“Several churches and ministries are planning to attend the Fort Worth City Council meeting scheduled for Tuesday, July 13. The purpose of this meeting is two fold. First, to have the Christian community’s voice heard with regards to the cities plans to promote the homosexual lifestyle with taxpayer dollars. Second, to show support for our Police Department and to those officers who serve the city.

“We would like your involvement and participation in this meeting. Invite and bring as many people as you can to the city council meeting. Several pastors and ministers form the community as well from our ministry will be addressing the city council. The city council meeting starts at 7pm, but I would encourage you to get there early to ensure a seat. Click Here for directions to City Hall.

“There is a move in this country to redefine marriage. We as believers need to stand up in love and have our voices heard on this issue. Numbers matter; even if you do not live in Fort Worth your presence at this meeting will have a profound affect. Again, the meeting is scheduled for Tuesday, July13 at 7pm in City Hall – 1000 Throckmorton St, Fort Worth 76102. Thank you for taking action. God loves everyone, and so do we.”

(Don’t you just love that last part: “God loves everyone, and so do we”? Oh yeah, these folks are just oozing love for the homosexuals and transgenders, aren’t they?)

Well, Pastor Smith was encouraging the LGBT community and our supporters to turn out for the meeting, too, to try and counteract all that love. And the folks over at Fairness Fort Worth — who said the group planning to attend the meeting are an offshoot of the Kenneth Copeland Ministries, led by Kenneth’s son John — are also stepping up to the plate to make sure the anti-gay agenda doesn’t get a free pass.

Here’s the statement from Fairness Fort Worth:

“To our GLBT Community and Supporters,

“Over the last 48 hours you may have heard that an off-shoot of Kenneth Copeland Ministries plans to attend tonight’s Fort Worth City Council meeting to protest issues important to us. Many have asked if we should create a large turnout as we did this time last year. Fairness Fort Worth recommends that we save that for a more productive day.

“Here’s why. Citizen presentations occur at the tail-end of the meeting. While last year the mayor moved these up due to an urgent issue — this time around there isn’t anything so pressing. In fact, this promises to be one of the longest Council meetings of the year. You’re certainly welcome to attend, but know this meeting may easily go until 1 a.m. Nothing on the agenda tonight specifically addresses GLBT issues. However, we have contingency plans in place to address adversarial remarks should it be necessary on any agenda item.

“Fairness Fort Worth continues to work through and be a significant stakeholder in our city process. Council members have come to respect our participation. This evening they will see the faces of our GLBT and supportive straight leadership in the gallery reinforcing the amazing initiatives they have taken over the last year.

“Tonight, watch the news; tomorrow, check your paper. Have water-cooler discussions with your colleagues and heart-to-heart conversations with your family and friends. Others may manufacture problems. We’re creating solutions.”

I also talked to Jason Lamers in Mayor Mike Moncrief’s office. He told me that there was nothing on the agenda specifically related to the LGBT community, and that he had not heard anything about the “Believers Stand United” group coming to the council meeting tonight. And, like Fairness Fort Worth, he warned that the meeting is likely to last late into the evening — at least till midnight — and that the public comment part of the meeting won’t happen until the end. He also pointed out that you can watch the council meeting live online at the Fort Worth city website.

So there you have it. The so-called Christians are planning to take their hate to the Fort Worth City Council again tonight. Fairness Fort Worth has pledged to have people there ready to answer the hatefulness if and when the need arises. But it couldn’t hurt to have a few more friendly LGBT faces in the crowd to back them up.

Watch for coverage of the meeting here on the blog tomorrow and in Friday’s Dallas Voice.

—  admin

Chief Halstead: 'I will find you and I will fire you' (unless, apparently, you raid a gay bar)

Wesley Lamb
Wesley Lamb

“To those very, very select few who think that you can stand against policy, that you can violate the public’s trust, I will find you and I will fire you,” Fort Worth Police Chief Jeff Halstead told a news conference yesterday, according to The Star-Telegram.

No,  he wasn’t talking about the officers who raided the Rainbow Lounge. He was talking about the latest string of scandals to hit the department including this week’s arrest of officer Wesley Lamb.

Lamb was arrested for smoking a doobie — in uniform — in his patrol car.

Not kewl, dude.

—  David Taffet

More info on Saturday’s Prop 8 protest in Dallas

If you’re interested in helping out with Saturday’s Prop 8 protest in Dallas but couldn’t make last night’s organizational meeting, there’s plenty of contact info and volunteer opportunities after the jump.

—  John Wright