District attorney also says she hopes to participate in Dallas Pride events in September
Dallas County District Attorney Susan Hawk said she plans to ensure cooperation continues between her office and the county’s LGBT communities during her tenure as the county’s top prosecutor.
The office’s LGBT Task Force, created under former District Attorney Craig Watkins, will be utilized for that purpose, Hawk added. “We’re planning now to go forward with the task force that [Watkins] created and expand it in any way that we can,” she said.
The task force was created in 2014 after Watkins learned that members of LGBT communities are often reluctant to report crimes committed against them to the police out of fear and mistrust. The task force is meant to repair relations between the two groups.
In March 2014, nearly 300 of Watkins’ prosecutors and investigators participated in sensitivity training to understand the diverse needs of the county’s communities.
Hawk defeated Watkins in the election last November.
The task force is made up of law enforcement officers, prosecutors, social workers and investigators, said Craig McNeil, assistant district attorney and chairman of the task force. “Our main focus is on victims and witnesses and making sure that they’re being treated like anyone else,” he said.
Hawk said she treated fairly across the board during her 11 years as a judge and seven-and-a-half years as a prosecutor, and law enforcement agencies need to understand that LGBT-related cases should be prosecuted the same way as other cases.
“The one message that I heard time and time again is [LGBT people] want to feel safe. They want their families to feel safe,” Hawk said. “This is not a task force for any other reason than to make sure the community is served.”
Hawk said she wants to meet with LGBT liaisons from different agencies, such as police departments and school districts, and law enforcement agencies within the next month to make sure cases are investigated correctly.
“I also think it’s important that we reach out to the different nonprofits,” she said. “I worked with different groups when I was a judge. One of the things that I’ve done since I was elected is go out and speak with as many groups as I can.”
She said Resource Center and churches in the LGBT community are among the nonprofits she plans to reach out to.
Hawk also said she would like to participate in Dallas Pride on Sept. 20. “Wherever I can be out supporting the community, I’ll do it,” she said, adding that she wants the LGBT community to know that her office will treat them with respect, whether they’re witnesses or victims.
“Justice is blind here,” she said.
This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition June 19, 2015.