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

WH adviser Valerie Jarrett refers to gay bullying suicide victim’s ‘lifestyle choices’

Oy.

This post isn’t about playing an “I gotcha!” with Valerie Jarrett, who ironically just spoke at HRC’s “No Excuses” dinner. The poor woman, for better or worse, is being used by the White House to show how pro-gay Obama really is. And that’s the problem. The closest voice to the President on gay issues is a straight woman who uses language to describe gays that is not only outdated by nearly 20 years, but it’s also supremely offensive.

If there were any senior advisers to the President who were gay, and to our knowledge there aren’t, they would know not to use phrases like “lifestyle choice,” especially when talking about a kid who killed himself after being bullied – he wasn’t killed because he made a choice (it’s not a choice, thank you) and he didn’t have a lifestyle, he had a life, past tense. (Her use of the phrase is about 4:30 into the video I link to above.)

Again, the point here is not to play “I gotcha” with Valerie Jarrett. It’s to point out the simple fact that the people advising the President are political novices when it comes to gay civil rights (though I have to say, we’d better be hearing something from the White House pronto about how it’s not a choice). And the people he has on staff as unofficial gay liaisons (since they have other non-gay jobs too), aren’t senior enough advisers to make a difference.




AMERICAblog Gay

—  John Wright