Off-duty D.C. officer arrested in shooting incident involving transgender women

Washington, D.C. police officer Kenneth Furr was arrested after an incident early Friday morning in which he allegedly stood on the hood of a car while firing multiple shots into the vehicle and yelling “I’m going to kill you.” Three of the car’s five occupants were transgender women, the other two were male friends, according to the Washington Blade. One of the men, identified to the Blade by a representative of D.C.’s Transgender Health Empowerment as a brother to one of the trans women in the car, was shot several timesm and two of the women were injured.

Furr, a 20-year veteran of the police force, has been charged with driving while intoxicated and assault with a dangerous weapon. Furr, who registered a .15 on a breathalyzer test when he was arrested, had allegedly gotten into an argument, about an hour and a half earlier, with the people in the car in a drugstore parking lot. Reports indicate that Furr was firing a Glock 9 and that five shells were recovered at the scene. The shooting took place at a different location, according to WTOP FM 103.5.

The T.H.E. representative told the Blade that the argument started when Furr, appearing to be drunk, approached one of the trans women and solicited her for sex and she turned him down.

Officials said Furr was on restricted duty at the time of the shooting due to a medical condition. His service weapon had been turned into the department, and officials said he was not authorized to carry a firearm when the incident occurred. Reports also indicate that Furr had previously been fired from the police department, but was later reinstated.

The shooting involving Furr came within a month and a half of the murders of two trans women, both of whom were shot to death in separate incidents 11 days apart. The two murders happened within two blocks of each other on Dix Street, according to this report from WTOP FM 103.5.  One woman was walking with a friend on July 20, in the 6100 block of Dix, when they were approached by two young black men. The attackers shot one of the women without provocation, the friend told police. On July 31, a trans woman walking the 6200 block of Dix was shot to death by a young black man who asked her for change and then opened fire.

T.H.E. and the D.C. Trans Coalition held a rally Sunday near the site of the latest shooting. The crowd of about 70 who attended included D.C. Mayor Vincent Gray, D.C. Council member Tommy Wells and D.C. Deputy Police Chief Diane Groomes who said she was representing Police Chief Cathy Lanier.

—  admin

Gay DISD cop among few out male officers

Although Jeremy Liebbe is 100 percent out, he declined to be photographed for this story because he does undercover work.

Jeremy Liebbe serves as co-commander for major Oak Lawn events and is a board member at Youth First Texas

JOHN WRIGHT | Online Editor
wright@dallasvoice.com

Jeremy Liebbe’s coming-out-at-work experience was unusual to say the least.

It was September 2004, and Liebbe had been with the Dallas Independent School District’s police force for less than two months. He and another officer were traveling down U.S. Highway 175 toward “Dead Man’s Curve” at a high rate of speed late at night, with their lights and sirens activated, responding to a call for help from a third officer who was in a fight with some suspects.

Liebbe’s partner, a former Marine raised in South Dallas, was behind the wheel. (“Not the individual you would think to come out to,” Liebbe says.)

Liebbe’s partner suddenly turned to him and said flatly, “Are you gay?”

“My first thought was, if I answer correctly, are we going to wreck out in Dead Man’s Curve?” Liebbe recalls. “I just said, ‘Well, yeah.’ And he said, ‘OK, cool.’ Then we go down and deal with the fighting suspects and get everybody in custody, and he decides to out me to the suspects and the other officer by telling them what type of person, in Marine terminology, just kicked their tail.

“I was like, well, that’s one way to come out at work.”

A few weeks later, Liebbe says, rumors about his sexual orientation, now confirmed, had “spread like wildfire,” and he found himself called in to meet with his supervisor, the lieutenantover internal affairs. The lieutenant explained there was a rumor going around that Liebbe was gay.

“I said, ‘OK, well it’s true.’ And he said, ‘So you’re just going to freely admit it?’” Liebbe recalls. “I said, ‘One, we have our nondiscrimination policies that are board mandated, and two, as the internal affairs lieutenant, if I lied to you about something as trivial as that, would you ever trust me again?’

“He said, ‘That’s a damn good point.’”

Since then, Liebbe says, his sexual orientation hasn’t been much of an issue at DISD, and he gets along well with the lieutenant.

“There have been some situations that have come up at work, as would be expected in a paramilitary organization, but for the most part, I’m a supervisor now,” he says. “Most people, just because of the fact that I’m a supervisor, are going to leave me alone. It also helps that DISD has a longstanding nondiscrimination policy for employment practices that covers sexual orientation, so that gives some fallback.”

Today, the 32-year-old Liebbe has been with the DISD police for more than six years and serves as a detective sergeant in narcotics. (Because he does undercover work, he didn’t want his photograph to appear alongside this story.)

Liebbe is one of the few openly gay police officers in North Texas who are male — if not the only one. And as it turns out, Liebbe’s decision to go into law enforcement was something of an accident that began in the gayborhood.

In 2001, Liebbe was studying computer science at UT Dallas and had started a database design company. At 22, he had “damn good money flowing in,” and he says he found himself on the Cedar Springs strip three to five nights a week.

At the time, Liebbe says, there was gang activity in some of the clubs. As a regular who happened to be a first-degree black belt, Liebbe says he wound up ending a couple of fights “quickly and efficiently.”

When Caven’s security team asked Liebbe to join them, he questioned why he’d want to. But after learning it would mean free drinks and reduced cover charges, “I said, ‘Where do I sign up?’” Liebbe recalls.

Shortly thereafter, Liebbe caught the attention of Sgt. Lynn Albright, then the Dallas Police Department’s LGBT liaison officer, who noticed that he was a little different from other Caven security guards.

“She said, ‘If you want something to do when you’re bored, come play with us,’” Liebbe recalls.

Albright asked Liebbe to ride along with her twice, and if he wasn’t’ convinced to go to the police academy and become a reserve officer, she’d leave him alone.

“I actually thought she was crazy for suggesting I become a cop,” he recalls.

But Liebbe was hooked, and despite becoming a cop, he never abandoned his roots in the LGBT community.

For the last eight years, Liebbe has worked all of the major events on Cedar Springs, from Pride to the Halloween block party to, most recently, the Super Bowl block party. And for the last three years, he’s served as operations co-commander for them.

It’s a huge job that requires hundreds of hours of preparations for each event on the part of Liebbe and two co-commanders.

“We almost are getting to the point where we literally roll from one event to another,” he says.

Liebbe says he’s proud of how smoothly events run in Oak Lawn compared to other areas of the city. And he’s convinced so many DISD officers to work the events that they now typically make up half the law enforcement presence — which he says ultimately benefits LGBT youth.

Liebbe also serves as a volunteer and board member at Youth First Texas, which stemmed from his role on the Pride Steering Committee since YFT is a beneficiary of the parade.

As an Eagle Scout who was eventually ousted from the Boy Scouts for being gay, Liebbe says he’s always had a place in his heart for youth organizations.

He began volunteering at YFT a few years ago while taking some time off from work, after he’d just finished investigating 33 cheese heroin deaths at DISD.

He recalled that on his YFT volunteer application he wrote, only half-jokingly: “I think it would be spiritually uplifting to work with at-risk groups who are not in handcuffs.”

As it turns out, the presence of a law enforcement officer at YFT has both practical and symbolic importance. For example, the former director of YFT sometimes questioned why Liebbe insisted on carrying a concealed firearm at the center — until a deadly shooting a few years ago at an LGBT youth center in Israel.

Liebbe also teaches a self-awareness and self-defense program at YFT called SEED, which stands for Survive, Evade, Escalate and Destroy. Liebbe, who was bullied as a teenager, says his role as a DISD police officer gives him an interesting perspective on the problem, and the recent LGBT youth suicide crisis reopened old wounds.

Despite its name, Liebbe says the SEED program, which he wrote with a friend, doesn’t advocate violence. Instead, the program is based on the idea that most bullies will back down if you stand up to them, even if it’s just verbally.

“We teach that violence is a last resort,” he says. “You don’t hit anybody unless they’ve taken a swing at you. But once the bullying escalates to violence, once it becomes bashing, then the nature of the game needs to change.”

Liebbe says he makes clear to YFT youth that he isn’t there as a cop, before adding that he hopes they’re never involved in one of his investigations, because his case clearance rate is pretty high.

But given the perception in the LGBT community that law enforcement isn’t gay-friendly — and the fact that a lot of officers sleep through diversity training — Liebbe acknowledges that the mere presence of a gay law enforcement officer at YFT can’t hurt.

“Every one of the youth there who get to know me can say there’s at least one cop that, if I see him, I can give him a hug and he’ll help me,” Liebbe says.

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

—  John Wright

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